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symptoms of urinary incontinEncE in agEd
practitionErs of physical activity

Janeisa Franck Virtuoso1
Giovane Pereira Balbé1
Roges Ghidini Dias1
Giovana Zarpellon Mazo2
Virtuoso JF, Balbé GP, Dias RG, Mazo GZ. Symptoms of urinary incontinence in aged practitioners of physical activity. Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71.
Introduction: The aim of this study was to describe the occurrence of symptoms of urinary incontinence in the
elderly practitioners of physical activities. Materials and Methods: The sample consisted of 123 elderly (100
women and 23 men) with mean age of 69.4±6.12 years. For data collection, a questionnaire regarding age, sex, presence of comorbidities, physical activity and questions about urinary incontinence was used. Results: There
was a predominance of urinary incontinence stress (50.0%), followed by mixed urinary incontinence (26.6%) and
urinary incontinence urgency (23.4%). Only 10.4% of elderly reported symptoms of loss of urine during physical
activity. Discussion: The urinary incontinence stress was the predominant type in the sample, contrasting with
literature. Despite the small number of participants with urinary loss during physical activity, there are no conclusive studies yet, which report pelvic floor damage associated with the practice of it.
Urinary Incontinence; Physical Activity; Elderly; Health Promotion.
1 Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina – UDESC – Laboratório de Gerontologia do Centro de Ciências da Saúde e do Esporte – Florianópolis/
SC – Brazil
2 Universidade do Porto – Porto – Portugal
Copyright 2009 by Colégio Brasileiro de Atividade Física, Saúde e Esporte Fit Perf J | Rio de Janeiro | 8 | 5 | 366-371 | Sep/Oct 2009 Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71. urinAry incontinence AnD PhysicAl Activity sintomas dE incontinência urinária Em idosos praticantEs dE atividadE física

Introdução: O objetivo do presente estudo foi descrever a ocorrência de sintomas de incontinência urinária em idosos praticantes de atividade física.
Materiais e Métodos: A amostra foi composta por 123 idosos (100 mulheres e 23 homens) com idade média de 69±6 anos. Para coleta de dados,
utilizou-se um questionário sobre a idade, o sexo, a presença de morbidades e a atividade física que praticavam e questões quanto à incontinência urinária.
Resultados: Observou-se o predomínio da incontinência urinária de esforço (50,0%), seguida da mista (26,6%) e da incontinência urinária de urgência
(23,4%). Apenas 10,4% dos idosos relataram sintomas de perdas de urina durante a prática de atividade física. Discussão: A incontinência urinária de
esforço foi o tipo predominante na amostra contrapondo-se ao relatado na literatura. Apesar do número reduzido de participantes com perdas urinárias
durante a prática de atividade física, ainda não existem estudos conclusivos que relatem danos ao assoalho pélvico associado à prática desta.
Incontinência Urinária; Atividade Física; Idoso; Promoção da Saúde.
síntomas dE la incontinEncia urinaria En ancianos practicantEs dE la actividad física

Introducción: El objetivo del estudio fue describir la aparición de los síntomas de la incontinencia urinaria en ancianos practicantes de actividad física.
Materiales y Métodos: La muestra consistió de 123 ancianos (100 mujeres y 23 hombres) con edad media de 69,4±6,12 años. Para la recopilación de
datos, se utiliza un cuestionario sobre edad, sexo, presencia de comorbilidades, la actividad física y preguntas sobre la incontinencia urinaria. Resultados:
Se observó un predominio de la incontinencia urinaria de esfuerzo (50,0%), seguido de la mixta (26,6%) y de la incontinencia urinaria de urgencia (23,4%).
Sólo el 10,4% de los ancianos informaron los síntomas de la pérdida de orina durante la actividad física. Discusión: La incontinencia urinaria de esfuerzo
es lo predominante en la muestra a los informes contrastados en la literatura. A pesar del pequeño número de participantes con la pérdida de orina durante
la actividad física, aún no existen estudios concluyentes que informen los daños del suelo pélvico asociado con la práctica de la misma.
Incontinencia Urinaria; Actividad Física; Anciano; Promoción de la Salud.
notification5. It is estimated that 200 million people live
Aging is an inevitable natural process that expresses with UI all over the world7, and that about 15 to 30% of
by physical, psychological, emotional and social char- people with 60 years, or more than it, present some type acteristics1, permeated by the greatest vulnerability to
of UI8, although it is a health and social problem, with
diseases, which can interfere in the autonomy and inde- an increasing tendency due, among other reasons, to the pendence2, producing undesirable events, such as the
aging of population7.
urinary incontinence (UI)1.
A Brazilian study of prevalence and risk factors as- According to the International Continence Society, sociated with UI was carried out in Vassouras, in the state the UI is defined as any involuntary loss of urine3. The
of Rio de Janeiro, with 1,042 women over 15 years old most common types are: effort UI (EUI), which is the loss from 1999 to 2000. In this study, a medium prevalence of urine associated with physical activities that increase of UI of 26.6% among women from 60 to 69 years old, the intra-abdominal pressure; the urinary urge inconti- 34% between 70 and 79 years, and 46.2% over 80 years nence (UUI), involuntary loss of urine associated with a old, being UUI with 38.6%, EUI with 26.4% and MUI of strong desire of urinating; and the mixed UI (MUI), when 3.7%, was found9.
both types are present4.
Transversal and revision studies concluded that the num- Most of the prevalence studies of UI point an oscil- ber of cases of UI can be much higher, since many people lation between 5 to 59%5, although there is no consen-
do not look for help10 for unknowing the possible treatments
sus in the literature6. This variability happens due to the
and loss of orientations by health professionals11,12,13,14, be-
choice of the sample, according to the age, sex, cul- sides shame or omission15 or the belief that the problem is a
tural level, gravity of the disease, type of UI and its low normal consequence of the aging process8,16.
Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71. During this process, the inferior urinary tract presents To define symptoms related to EUI, questions about some changes, even in the absence of diseases, like the the urinary loss during the sneeze or cough were asked to decrease of the strength of vesical musculature contrac- the subjects. In the identification of symptoms of UUI, the tion and ability in delaying the micturition and increase of question concerned the difficulty of getting to a bathroom the involuntary vesical contractions17. These factors asso-
when there is a micturitional desire. They were consid- ciated with hypoestrogenism, in women, let elderly more ered MUI symptoms when there was their mention. The propense to UI, be it for EUI due to the weakness of the presence of urinary losses was investigated from ques- muscles of pelvic floor or for the UUI when non-inhibited tions about the use of hygienic protectors to avoid dis- comforts with the leakage of urine during the practice of According to Caetano, Tavares and Lopes17, eui
physical activity. The investigated were invited to partici- is very common among women who practice physical pate in the study, after the explication of the objectives activities, provoking about 26 to 33% of this group6. A
of the research, its importance and applicability. When lot of the studies try to analyze the urinary losses in ath- they agreed in participating, two copies of the informed letes14,18, however few studies evalute this type of symp-
The interviews were carried out in a site assigned by Thus, there is the need of analyzing the presence of Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina (UDESC), ap- urinary losses in elderly, once they are responsible for the plied by scholars and professors of Geti, duly trained.
high rates of abandonment of physical activities, repre- For the data analysis, a descriptive statistics was used senting the want of inhrent benefits for this practice19.
by mean, standard deviation and frequency values.
The abandonment or loss of physical activity can lead
to sedentary habits, apparition of other diseases18 and
collaboration of functional immobility5. Concerning the
theme’s importance, the objective of the present study is In Table 1 the characteristics of the sample about the to describe the occurrence of the UI symptoms in elderly age, sex, self-reported diseases and practiced physical who practice physical activities, in order that possible interventions appear in terms of orientation and health The most prevalent morbities in the sample were the osteoarticular diseases, followed by arterial hyperten-sion, hypercholesterolemy and diabetes. And the less prevalents were: Parkinson’s disease, hepatitis, epilepsy MATERIALS AND METHODS
and renal insufficiency, all with only one case, according The authors declare that there is no conflict of inter- to Table 1. It can also be observed that most of the old- aged practiced hydrogimnastics, followed by swimming This research was approved by the Ethics and Re- search Committee of Universidade do Estado de Santa In relation to UI, of the 38 aged interviewed (30.8%), Catarina, under the number 185/07. It is an observa- who reported symptoms of urinary losses, 37 were wom- tional study of a descriptive type20. In the studied popula-
en and 1 was a man. This man referred Parkinson’s dis- tion, 190 elderly practitioners of physical activities took part in the Program of Extension of the Group of Studies In Graphic 1, it is possible to note the classification of of Third Age (Geti). The sample had 100 women and 23 UI according to the presence of symptoms in the sample. men, with a mean age of 69±6 years old, participating The symptoms of EUI were the most seen in the sample, in the Geti program. Geti is a permanent program of they are represented by urinary loss during cough or extension developed for the third age, specially to the practice of physical, educational, cultural, artistic, of The difficulty of getting to a bathroom due to the physiotherapeutical and psychological evaluation and of micturition urgency was reported by 17 incontinent aged intervention activities. Participants with less than 60 years (44.2%), and the inability for such by only 2 (5.2%). Still, old or that had completed other modalities which do not ten (26.6%) subjects presented symptoms of MUI and represent physical activity were used as exclusion criteria Among the old-aged with symptoms of UI, it was not- In the data collection, a semistructured questionnaire ed that 11 (28.6%) always used some protection as tam- for the identification of the sample was used, applied as pons or “covering” to avoid discomforts with the loss of individual interviews with questions regarding age, sex, urine, and only 7 (18.2%) used these during the practice presence of self-referred morbities, physical activity that of physical activities. The urinary losses during physical practiced in the program and questions referring to UI.
activities was reported in four (10.4%) of the researched.
Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71. urinAry incontinence AnD PhysicAl Activity Graphic 1 - Classification of UI according to the presence
As can be noted, there was one report of male UI. of symptoms in the sample.
Especially in this case, the urinary losses were associated Presence of the UI symptoms in the sample
with Parkinson’s disease, which causes changes in the
mechanism of urinary continence24, once UI is hardly
found in men with associated diseases25.
For a cultural disease, women complain more than men26. This statement can justify the low prevalence of
urinary losses among they, since gynecological problems are part of the routine of women, while urological dis- turbances are still a “tabu” for men. The realization of questions by an interview and the low number of men in the sample can also explain such prevalence. Some stud- ies, however, point to a two times higher probability of UI in women with ages over 60 years-old relative to men8,
increasing with age1,10,26.
Due to the increase of life expectation in the popu- Table 1 - Sample characteristics: age, sex, diseases and
lation, a woman spends about one third of her life in practiced physical activity
a hypoestrogenism situation, suffering its eventual con- sequences27. The hypoestrogenism affects evidently the
urinary tract, causing trophic changes that worsen or unleash the EUI in the post-menopause28. Hence, the
decrease of elasticity of the conjunctive tissue, the def- ficiency of strogens and the consequences of previous gestations and childbirths result in weakness of the mus- cles of the pelvic floor conveying to the involuntary loss of urine29.
In the gestation, some damages happen in the muscles of the pelvic floor and, consequently, can cause UI. Grau et al.30 followed 531 women in a year
after the childbirth and noticed that 26.8% of the in- vestigated persisted with EUI symptoms in the end of the period. These results fortified the association be- tween the childbirth, be it normal or caesarean, as a risk factor for UI31.
UI can also be associated with some diseases, for example, diabetes mellitus, that in virtue of microvascular complications can cause neurovascular damages to the urethral sphincter and alterations in the detrusor mus- culature, becoming an unleash factor or worsening the UI32. Such understanding is necessary with elderly, once
the presence of diabetes is common in this age. The use of diuretics by hypertenses can also associated with the involuntary loss of urine33.
In this study, the most prevalent symptoms of the el- derly were the EUI, that with the ones of MUI, totalized DISCUSSION
about ¾ of the old-aged incontinents with urinary losses The present study observed a predominance of the female sex in the sample, and it may be justified because Although EUI is the most prevalent type of UI in the old-aged are from a group of systematic and regular overall population, among the elderly it can be seen that physical activities, which most of them is composed by the values are higher for the UUI symptoms27. UUI in
women. Confirming this findings, several studies referred elderly is justified by the presence of involuntary vesical that in programas supervised of physical activity for elder- contractions that happen within the ages. The compo- ly is common the predominance of elderly women21,22,23.
nent of micturition urgency which characterizes this type Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71. of UI seems to be what bring the highest impact in the ing the micturition was more incident with 56.7% of the life of patients34.
Sanchez et al.25, when researching 195 cases be-
UI affects the social, psychological and family ac- tween men and women with more than 65 years and quaintance of people5 and the sexual relations1,12,37
clinical diagnostic of UI, stated that 68% of they pre- and contributes for the dismissal or abandonment of the sented UUI, 26% with EUI and 6% MUI. Differently from practice of sports or physical activites, becoming an ob- the data found in this study, EUI was the most prevalent stacle for this practice by the old-aged38. Thus, although
in the sample, followed by MUI and UUI. Such fact may UI does not cause a significant morbidity or mortality, it be justified by being performed with UI symptom and not can lead to sedentarism restrincting the inherent benefits to the practice of physical exercises19. The use of hygienic
A fair relation between symptoms of urinary losses protectors, mentioned by 28.6% of the sample of this and the practice of physical activities is still unknown. study, can also be considered as an obstacle in the prac- Some researchers believe that, during the physical ex- tice of physical activity. Some women search for alterna- ercise, the increase of intra-abdominal pressure is fol- tives to keep themselves dry, as the use of coverings and lowed by a simultaneous contraction or pre-contraction absorbents39 or the hydric restriction17.
of the muscles of the pelvic floor19,35. Based on these
In the present study, the predominance of EUI (50.0%) facts, physical activity can prevent or even treat the UI. was observed, because of cough or sneeze, followed by It is also believed that by the training of the abdominal MUI (26.6%) and UUI (23.4%). This disposition was dif- musculature during the physical activity occurs indirect ferent from that one found in literature, in which UUI is strengthening of the muscles of the pelvic floor35. Such
predominant among the old-aged population. It is also explanation could, in any way, justify the incidence of emphasized that a reduced number of old-aged in the urinary losses of only 30.8% among elderly of the pres- sample (10.4%) reported symptoms of losses of urine during the practice of physical activity.
Yet, some women loose urine during the physical ac- Even when there are divergences about the real ben- tivity, mentioned by 10.4% of the subjects in the present efits of the physical activity to the pelvic floor, it is of great study. Such event lead to the formulation of a second importance that the professional of Physical Education hypothesis19,35, in which the authors believe that the
know the signs and symptoms of the UI, aiming at guid- muscles of the pelvic floor can danify cronically, due to ing the old-aged about the treatment and prevention.
the repetitive increase of the intra-abdominal pressure. The need of new studies that compare the presence Actually, when the old-aged population is analyzed, it of urinary losses between active old-aged and sedentary, is difficult to identify the genesis of UI, since other risk in order to verify the influence of physical activity over the factors, resulting from the aging itself, are evolved. How- ever, the mentioned hypothesis are to guide an explica- The authors of this study thank the Coordenação tion of the UI symptoms in this sample of practicers of de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Ensino Superior (Capes), for master’s scholarship received by Janeisa The most relevant question in this context is to know Franck Virtuoso, Giovane Pereira Balbé and Roges if the specific exercises weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor, and which sport or physical activity represents a
greater risk for UI36. In a research of bibliographic re-
view on the prevalence of UI in women who are athlete,
a high prevalence and relation to the type of practice 1. Herrera Pérez A, Arriagada Hernández J, González Espinoza C, Leppe activity was evidenced, as the sports of high impact pres- Zamora J, Herrera Neira F. Quality of life and sexual function in ent greater injured consequences for the pelvic floor postmenopausal women with urinary incontinence. Actas Urol Esp. Therefore, it should be emphasized that several risk fac- 2. World Health Organization. Active ageing: a policy framework. [acesso 14 tors can be associated, like parity, the menopausal state jan 2009]. Madri, 2002. [on-line]. Disponível em:
3. Sand PK, Dmochowski R. Analysis of the standardisation of terminology In a survey carried out by Brown and Miller37, the
of lower urinary tract dysfunction: report from the standardisation sub- complaints of urinary losses during physical exercises committee of the International Continence Society. Neurourol Urodynam. 2002;21:167-78.
were more incident among women of half age (48 to 4. Abrams P, Cardozo L, Fall M, Griffiths D, Rosier P, Ulmsten U et al. The 53 years old), with 43.7% of the sample. In the female standardisation of terminology of lower urinary tract function: report old-aged of 73 to 79 years, the incidence was of 15.9% from the standardization sub-committee of The International Continence Society. Urology. 2002;61:37-49.
and among the young women (21 to 26 years), 13.9%. According to the same study, the difficulty of postpon- 5. Fontcuberta JM. Incontinencia urinaria: ¿otra epidemia silenciosa? Aten Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71. urinAry incontinence AnD PhysicAl Activity 6. Reis RB, Cologna AJ, Martins ACP, Paschoalin EL, Tucci Jr S, Suaid HJ. 23. Andreotti MC, Okuma SS. Perfil sócio-demográfico e de adesão inicial de Incontinência urinária no idoso. Acta Cirúrgica Brasileira. 2003;18: idosos integrantes em um programa de educação física. Ver Paul Educ Fís. 7. Robles JE. La incontinencia urinaria. Anales Sis San Navarra. 24. Guccione AA. Fisioterapia geriátrica. 2. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Guanabara 8. Almeida FG, Nesrallah LJ, Claro JFA, Ortiz V, Srougi V. Incontinência 25. Sanchez JS, Virseda M, Verdejo C, Gil P, Cruz A, Prieto L et al. Urinary urinária. Ver Bras Med. 2006;63:307-16.
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38. Auge AP, Zucchi CM, Costa FMP, Nunes K, Cunha LPM, Silva PVF et al. 21. Faria Júnior AG. Idosos em movimento: mantendo a autonomia: Comparações entre os índices de qualidade de vida em mulheres com população e expectativas. In: Marques AT, Gaya A, Constantino JM. (Eds.). incontinência urinaria submetidas ou não ao tratamento cirúrgico. Rev Physical activity and health in the elderly. Porto: University of Porto; 1994. 39. Lopes MHBM, Higa R. Restrições causadas pela incontinência urinária à 22. Teixeira MB. Empoderamento de idosos em grupos direcionados à vida da mulher. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2006;40:34-41.
promoção da saúde. [dissertação]. Rio de Janeiro: Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública da FIOCRUZ; 2002.
Received: 30/06/09 – Accepted: 01/07/09
Fit Perf J. 2009 Sep-Oct;8(5):366-71.


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