Working out is awesome. It makes you feel good, it helps your clothes fit nicely, it affords you a reason to buy an all-new, all-stretchy wardrobe, and it changes your body. But does it affect all of it? Everywhere? How does working out affect your vagina? From kegels to Kotex, it's time to figure it out.
Your vagina is a veritable wonderland. It's a mystery painted by acclaimed artists, an exit ramp for humans, an on-ramp for other humans (if you want them to board, that is), and generally awesome. But, she can be temperamental. (I am assuming my vagina is a "she," your vagina can be what it wants to be.) There is yeast that can get a bit sticky, discharge that feels a bit like someone may have cracked an egg in your underwear, and the always love bacterial infections that sometimes pop-up.
Working out can sometimes seem to exacerbate these issues. But, why? How does working out affect your vagina?
Your vagina is a warm, damp place to begin with, and that is already the perfect breeding ground for bacterial infections. When you couple that with sweaty workout clothing that holds moisture and heat next to your body, the effects are amplified, according to Rutgers University. And that excess sweat, if not washed away immediately after a workout, begins to feed the yeast in your vagina, possibly leading to a yeast infection, Mayo Clinic noted.
But yeast isn't the only worry. There's also this lovely little thing called bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is just as unpleasant as it sounds. It's a bacterial infection of the vagina that makes her madder than an old, wet hen. It happens when anaerobes — bacteria which does not require oxygen — become too numerous and cause infection. While not all women develop BV, one of the ways thought to prevent it from happening is to change out of your workout clothing promptly after exercise, according to Columbia University.
Ever heard the phrase "scraped scarlet"? It means you've chafed so badly that your skin is red and that can happen to your labia as easy as it does your inner thighs or nipples. The friction caused by the movement of skin on skin and clothing on skin can redden, irritate, and even break the skin, according to Kaiser Permanente. The friction can also cause ingrown hairs and painfully excised hair that is ripped out when your panties twist. (It's highly unpleasant.)
This is not just about damp, sweaty clothing, it's also about the shape and nature of the vagina on its own. As a runner, I will tell you that anti-chafing gels are wonderful in some areas, but can definitely burn in others. However, Monistat chafing gel is literally magic. It's like Hermione Granger decided to make a gliding product with the hair of a unicorn and the tear of a Phoenix.
But, it's not all yeast and bacteria. Working out can also help your vagina. Kegels, the gold standard of vagercise, improve the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, which are often weakened by childbirth and age, according to Mayo Clinic. They also help prevent against vaginal prolapse by working out the muscles that keep your vagina guarded.
Even better — exercise, in moderate amounts, can boost immunity, making your downtown less susceptible to infections and viruses that may want to infect your vagina, according to The New York Times.
How can working out affect your vagina? It's a mixed bag for your box, but you can help prevent some of these problems by only living in clean yoga pants and cotton underwear. Oh, yes, your panties are just as important as your post-workout routine. According to the University of California, Berkeley, the underwear that you wear to workout should be breathable, natural fiber that wicks away moisture from your vagina. It's also noted that some women notice an increase in rates of infection when wearing thongs, so just don't stress the panty lines. You're wearing underwear — if someone is staring at your butt, they can deal with it. Besides, moving a thong after squats is really awkward and difficult to do without people noticing.
Bottom line: Do your kegels and don't live in sweaty yoga pants. This is why you need so many pairs. Do it for your vagina.