Sweating out all your frustrations at an evening spin class seemed like a great idea until you felt the wrath of a painful urinary tract infection (UTI) in the middle of the day. The thought of squeezing into a tight pair of leggings and putting your crotch on a bike seat sounds miserable now that your pelvis hurts, your urethra burns, and you can't stop going to the bathroom. So, do you have to cancel the workout that you already paid for because of an annoying UTI?
Not really, says Adeeti Gupta, MD, FACOG, an Ob/Gyn. "A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, so exercising and sweating by themselves will not cause the UTI to worsen," she says. UTIs occur when bacteria that's normally found in your bowels gets pushed into your urinary tract by way of your urethra, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). This typically happens by not wiping properly, or forgetting to pee after sex.
Wearing tight, damp clothing won't really exacerbate a UTI — that's a myth, Dr. Gupta says. But hanging out in sweaty clothes could make you more susceptible to other vaginal issues even if you don't have a UTI. "You may get frequent vaginal infections due to pH changes and constant irritation," she says. "The remedy for that is the shower and change right away after completing your workout, and don't use any panty liners or sprays down there."
However, one workout-related thing that can make a UTI worse is dehydration, Dr. Gupta says. If you're hydrated, you'll urinate more, which will help to flush out bacteria inside your urethra. So, it's important to up your water intake dramatically while you're treating the infection, she says. And if you're planning on working out, you should drink even more water than you normally would, because you lose water when you sweat.
So, if you feel up to a workout while you have a UTI, you have the green light to keep on living your life, just make sure you see a doctor and get prescribed antibiotics right away, Dr. Gupta says. OTC medications that promise to provide relief may help numb your urinary tract, but they are not effective at treating the infection, she says.
And if the pain is too much, it's also fine to take a day off and focus on feeling better — spin class can wait.