For lots of people the point of exercising is to sweat, but that means there can be... well, repercussions for your vagina if you're not aware of the dos and don'ts when it comes to care down there.
Luckily, our vaginas are such magical creatures they have the ability to self-clean and generally look after themselves. There are a couple of things we should avoid doing, however, if we want to keep our genitals in tip top hygienic condition after exercise. And Canesten's Consultant Gynaecologist, Anne Henderson, has all the wisdom you need to make sure you don't make any simple mistakes:
DON'T: Use your gym gear more than once
Most people fire their gym stuff straight in the wash post-workout, but if you've ever dwelled for a few seconds too long on whether your leggings are really that sweaty, and if they could survive another session before being washed, gynaecologist Anne is here to persuade you otherwise. "I would recommend that women wash their gym gear after every use," she tells Cosmopolitan UK. "The close fit, the synthetic fibres used (lycra and elastane), and the sweaty environment of use mean that this clothing is a potentially fertile breeding ground for bacteria and yeast." Glorious.
In terms of how hard you should go on cleaning your gym kit, the expert advises not to sway too much from your usual routine with all your other garms. "Specialist cleaning products with antibacterial action are now available, but I would not normally recommend these for daily use, although they may be beneficial for using intermittently, say once a week or so."
DON'T: Do spinning if you're prone to vaginal issues
"Exercise as a rule is great for the whole body, including intimate vaginal health. If a woman suffers from vulvo-vaginal problems such as recurrent thrush or cystitis, however, I would recommend minimising exercises undertaken on a fixed bike," advises the gynaecologist.
"There is evidence that the intense pressure on the vulval area which this type of exercise tends to involve can lead to localised inflammation and irritation and also retrograde (upwards) spread of bacteria from the perineum via the urethra to the bladder, which could potentially lead to an increased risk of cystitis. This is further exacerbated by the risk of dehydration, which can occur during intense exercise. For women who experience this specific problem I would recommend looking at alternative forms of intense cardiovascular exercise, for example, using the treadmill or cross-trainer." Is it time to switch up your class preference?
There's a reason why this specialist doctor always has more patients in the run up to the London marathon. "Women who train really hard can be prone to vaginal problems such as thrush," says gynaecologist Anne. "This can result in a sweaty environment in the crotch area which can result in ideal the environment for thrush to thrive. It's not the exercise itself, it's just the extent and the excessive nature of the exercise that can cause thrush." And if that's not a good excuse to lower the intensity of your workout plan, I don't know what is.
DON'T: Wash too much
Remember how we said at the beginning vaginas are self-cleaning? There's really no need to do, well, anything cleanliness-wise down there. "Do as little as possible or in some cases do nothing. Please leave the vagina alone!" the gynaecologist warns, adding: "Over-washing and using harsh cleaning products can impact the health of the vagina." Anne's best advice is simply to wash with water, and to ensure you dry yourself properly after exercise.
DON'T: Wear leggings that are too tight
"It's not uncommon for tight clothing to aggravate or even onset cystitis," Anne tells Cosmopolitan UK."Tight gym clothing can create heat, friction and irritation which forms an environment that is perfect for bugs to be made and transferred. If you regularly go to the gym, consider occasionally swapping your tight lurex leggings for light breathable cotton gym trousers."
Hang on, there's such a thing as drinking too much water when exercising? For the good of your vaginal health, gynaecologist Anne says it's possible. While staying hydrated is an absolute must to keep you hydrated during exercise, as well as to avoid the onset of cystitis and to help alleviate the symptoms, the doctor advises: "Don’t drink litres and litres as that will cause stress to your bladder. But don't drink too little, either. "Regularly flushing out your bladder by going to the loo will help prevent bacteria from multiplying and will dilute the acidity of your urine," notes the expert.