If you work out regularly, first of all, we applaud your motivation… You go, Glen Coco! But we’re also serving up a reminder of how important it is to look after your vaginal health, especially if you spend a lot of time at the gym. Think about it: increased temperatures, sweat, and tight clothing – they don’t exactly make for ideal conditions for your vagina (or vulva) to thrive in. So, we got in touch with two world-renowned OBGYNs; Dr. Sherry Ross, Women’s Health Expert and Author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period, and Dr. Minkin, Yale professor of OBGYN, to find out what you should know. Here are their tops tips.
1. Shop mindfully
Dr. Ross recommends “To keep it simple when you work out, pick fabrics such as nylon, spandex, and polyester that are comfortable, nonabsorbent and flexible. Some materials are even known to be antibacterial, enhance your physical performance and provide additional support.” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin agrees and recommends underwear with a cotton gusset and also believes that loose clothes are ideal as you don’t want to be ‘surrounded by sweat’ that could lead to a yeast infection.
2. Ditch the thongs
“Thongs may look and feel sexier compared to everyday underwear but their anatomically unfriendly design makes it easier for harmful bacteria of the colon to find their way into the vagina and bladder increasing the risk of infection. Comfortably fitting cotton underwear that properly covers your female anatomy well, including the vagina and rectum, tends to be the best bet for the vagina in the long run. Finding the most comfortable underwear should be every woman’s mission and priority for vaginal health and wellness,” explains Dr. Ross.
3. Learn how to avoid heat rash
Dr. Ross tells us, “A heat rash is common if you sweat a lot (especially in a hot or humid environment) and leave your sweaty workout clothes on long after you leave the gym. Sweat traps bacteria on the skin, blocking sweat glands causing a stinging or burning rash with small itchy red bumps, also known as “prickly heat rash”.
Ideally, after a long workout, it’s best to get out of your sweaty clothes and take a shower where you can clean the sweat and bacteria off your body, especially the vulva.
“If you don’t have time to shower, I would bring a travel pack of vaginal hygiene wipes in your gym bag that can be used after working out. A quick wipe, front to back, of your vagina and bum, will remove excessive sweat and unwanted vaginal odors. Vaginal hygiene wipes are alcohol-free and hypoallergenic, and clean dirt, germs, and odors from all the right places and won’t increase your risk of getting a yeast or bacterial infection. My personal favorites are Summer’s Eve Blissful Escape Cleansing Cloths.”
4. Freshen up post-workout
“Masking body odor (B.O) after an intense workout is challenging since it’s a completely normal body reaction to sweating. Some people find the post-workout smell sexy and a turn-on while others don’t like it so much. Wearing clean sportswear to allow your skin to breathe is an easy remedy in lessening the sweat, bacterial and foul odor build-up while working out. Deodorant helps too! Feminine hygiene wipes work well for post work out vaginal care to prevent infections and odors,” says Dr. Ross.
5. Pee before you workout
Dr. Ross explains; “Working out can put additional strain on the bladder. The American Academy of Physicians (AAP) found that 50% of women between the age of 40 to 60 suffer from urinary incontinence. Any activity that increases abdominal pressure can bring about stress incontinence especially if your bladder is full. So before working out, empty your bladder so you reduce the stress on the bladder.”
6. Make Kegel exercises part of your daily workout
Both Dr. Minkin and Dr. Sherry say Kegel exercises are a must. Dr. Sherry told us “Kegel exercises are a simple and effective way to strengthen those pelvic floor muscles which support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. These pelvic floor muscles control bladder and bowel function. There are many reasons why you can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, from pregnancy and childbirth to aging and being overweight. The effect of weakening the pelvic floor results in your pelvic organs dropping and creating a bulge into your vagina. When this occurs it is called pelvic organ prolapse. Symptoms from a prolapse range from an uncomfortable pelvic pressure to leakage of urine. Kegel exercises can help delay or even prevent pelvic organ prolapse and other related symptoms. A woman is never too young to start doing Kegel exercises!”
Key takeaways? Try to change out of sweaty gym gear as quickly as possible, if you’re not able to, consider using a wipe to clean your vulva, pee before you workout, and do kegel exercises as often as you can!