Working out frequently is great for your body, but it can also come with some unwanted side effects, including messing with your vaginal health. When it comes to knowing how to protect your health, there are a number of unexpected workout habits that can cause side effects for your vaginal health to be aware of. Although it's important to keep up with your physical activity, you'll want to make sure you take the proper steps to avoid any issues. Because working out involves intense activity, sweat, and some tight clothing, it's not uncommon to experience issues such as chafing, yeast infections, and more.
"Generally, working out is beneficial to your vaginal health," Paula Bilica, D.O., an OB/GYN with the Institute for Women’s Health, tells Bustle. "Exercise helps boost immunity, which can ward off vaginal infections. It can also help strengthen your pelvic floor, which can help with a variety of conditions from urinary leakage to preventing vaginal prolapse. However, as with everything, people should exercise with moderation and take care to prevent some injuries that may be more common than they realize."
To make sure you're keeping your vagina healthy while you fit in your fitness, you'll want to be aware of these seven unexpected workout habits that can damage your health, according to experts.
1Cycling Too Often
"There are plenty of conditions female cyclists find themselves facing, but one of the more serious is loss of sensation in the vaginal area," says Bilica. "Long rides with an ill-fitting bike seat can lead to temporary numbness or intense pain." If you’re encountering any of these sensations after bike rides, it's important to talk to your OB/GYN immediately. "Long-term nerve damage can occur if the issue isn’t addressed, which it often can be with a padded bike seat, appropriate cycling pants, and a bike fitted to your personal specifications," she says.
2Going Back To Working Out Right After Having A Baby
Generally, women are advised to begin exercising after about six weeks post-partum, but it's important to slowly ease into it — something like walking or a gentle yoga class. "Intense exercise soon after giving birth will likely cause more harm than good," says Bilica. "Even simple abdominal exercises such as crunches may put too much pressure on the weakened pelvic floor and possibly lead to vaginal prolapse. Post-partum women beginning an exercise regime should work with their OB/GYN and listen to their bodies."
3Grooming Your Pubic Hair
Removing all your pubic hair — whether it's from waxing or shaving — can cause increase your risk of chronic vaginitis, or a vaginal infection. "Pubic hair serves a vital purpose, which is to provide the skin protection from friction and infection," Dr. Tami Prince, OB/GYN tells Bustle. "Hair removal causes tiny tears in the skin, which can then serve as entry points for bacteria and fungi." And with the friction resulting from exercise, or tight clothes worn to exercise, it's something to be mindful of.
4Wearing Tight Leggings
When looking out for your vaginal health, it may be a good idea to rethink the leggings. "[Tight leggings] do not allow for the vagina to breathe," says Prince. "Moisture can set in the vaginal region and cause infection. Tight clothes can also cause chafing. It’s best to wear loose-fitting, cotton, breathable clothing during workouts."
5Jumping Up & Down
Doing a lot of activity that involves putting a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor or a lot of jumping can result in the pelvic floor becoming more relaxed. "If that happens, there is an increased chance of having a prolapse," Christine Greves, MD, OB-GYN at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies tells Bustle. "During uterine prolapse, for example, the support is decreased, and the uterus can slip down farther in the vaginal canal, resulting in a bulge feeling." If this is something you are concerned about, speak with your OB/GYN to find out how to prevent a prolapse when exercising.
Wearing thongs might be your go-to, but they can wreak havoc on your vaginal health when exercising. "Anal shedding occurs while wearing thongs, which can spread E.Coli bacteria from the anus to the vagina and urethra," says Prince. "Once E.Coli gets into the vagina and urethra, a urinary tract infection or vaginitis can occur. It’s best to wear underwear that allows for the vagina to breathe such as underwear with cotton crotches. You can go commando if you choose as long as the workout pants are breathable."
7Hanging In Your Workout Clothes
Like to go to lunch or get some juice post-workout? You might want to wait until after your shower. "Wearing sweaty workout clothes for too long is a no-no," says Prince. "Moisture in the vaginal region can cause infection. It’s best to remove workout clothes and shower as soon as possible. Keep the vagina clean and dry."
Working out is great for your health, but you'll want to make sure you avoid these habits to maintain your vaginal health as well.