Can You Still Work Out With A UTI? Yes, With Caveats

Those who have experienced the discomfort of a urinary tract infection (UTI) know firsthand just how terrible the experience can be. The itching, pain, burning, and never-ending urge to pee can be maddening, sending us in search of immediate relief.

A UTI is most often the result of bacteria having made its way into the body through the urethra and then into the bladder (via Mayo Clinic). Targeting the urinary system, a UTI can affect more than just the bladder, however. Rather, if left untreated, a UTI can eventually impact kidney function, which is why it's important to seek prompt treatment once you start to pick up on any potential symptoms.

Most likely, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic medication to help clear up the infection. For most healthy adults with only mild infections, one week's worth of treatment may be all that's needed. For those with recurrent infections, however, antibiotic treatment may need to be ongoing for several months. With any kind of illness, there are things we may be advised to steer clear from as the body heals — certain food items, beverages, or activities, for example. When it comes to a UTI specifically, is working out something that should be avoided?

Avoid these three types of workouts when you have a UTI

The good news is that most forms of exercise are generally still safe to engage in and may even serve as a welcome distraction in cases of mild UTI infections, explains Rachel Fawcett, soft tissue therapist and personal trainer, via Blue Green Health. However, there are some specific types of workouts you'll want to hold off on until the infection fully heals.

Essentially, you'll want to steer clear of activities that put strain on the abdominal area, as these kinds of workouts can place subsequent pressure on the bladder — ouch. For this reason, Fawcett advises staying away from squats and deadlifts since both involve a great deal of hip movement. Similarly, it's also best to avoid ab workouts when you have a UTI. However, if you can't resist getting in a few crunches or planks, just remember to take deep breaths while doing so in order to help lighten the load on your abdominal muscles.

Additionally, be sure to wear loose, breathable clothing while exercising so as not to trap in moisture from sweating. And of course, don't forget to drink plenty of water before and while exercising, all of which can help reduce the chances of worsening the infection.

Exercise may help protect against UTIs

While it may be better to give certain workouts a rest while you're healing from a UTI, there is evidence to suggest that physical activity may actually help protect against UTIs in the first place. In a 2016 study published in the scientific journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers gathered self-reported health data from over 18,000 participants in Denmark between 2007 and 2010.

The study team set out to determine the relationship between different degrees of leisure-time exercise and prevalence rates of different bacterial infections amongst participants. Over the course of a 1-year follow-up period, over 5,000 participants filled one or more prescriptions for antibiotics. The study findings revealed that those who engaged in even low levels of leisure physical activity had a 10% lower risk for suspected bacterial infections compared to participants who had an inactive lifestyle. Researchers measured "suspected" bacterial infections by the number of antibiotic prescriptions filled. Even more, participants who engaged in low- and moderate-level exercise were found to have filled substantially fewer prescriptions for a type of urinary tract infection known as cystitis. These results were predominantly observed in women.