The Hidden Waist Trainer Risks to Your Core & Pelvic Floor

Have you heard about waist training? Kim Karsashian Waist Trainer

It’s the new celebrity-driven fitness craze for women.

High profile celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba have been touting the benefits of wearing a waist trainer for waist trimming and returning to pre-pregnancy shape.

But women beware … at a glance waist trainers may seem the miracle no effort solution for waist trimming but in reality wearing a waist trainer can pose an array of risks to your body – some serious!

Read on now to find out the hidden risks of wearing a waist trainer – especially during exercise.

What Is A Waist Trainer?

A waist trainer is a modern day corset cleverly marketed by some as enhancing fitness training results.

Manufactured using tight fitting material that wraps firmly around the trunk, waist trainers are designed to slim and trim the waist.

Some ‘sport’ designs are made from neoprene, nylon and even latex while others have inserted spiral steel bone inserts that wrap around the trunk.

Various online retailers are marketing their waist trainers for postnatal recovery and even for during gym/fitness workouts.

For example Onesie Zoosie Australia (ebay shop) advertise their latest latex steel boned waist trainer and provide these options for use:

•  Gym/Workout/Fitness*
•  Everyday use*
•  Wear to work**
•  Casual wear
•  Waist Training and shaping***
•  Post-baby reshape***

*Really? Like on the treadmill or during spin?
**What wear all day or just in the bus? Regardless of the type of work I do?
***So this is going to retrain my core muscles that haven’t been used for more than 9 months and recover my previous pre-pregnancy shape?

Is Waist Training Safe?

Waist Trainer and Abdominal Pressure

Direction of pressure created wearing a waist trainer: upwards on the diaphragm and down onto the pelvic floor

Maybe you’ve heard about women in the Victorian era who fainted because of their tight corset causing shallow breathing?

Difficulty deep breathing is only one of a number of risks with waist training. 

Waist trainers are designed to cinch in or narrow the waist.

Cinching in the waist increases the pressure within the trunk. This pressure is directed upwards and downwards within the body from the waist (shown right).

Just like squeezing a tube of toothpaste in the middle- the contents are forced outwards!

Wearing a tight waist trainer can have a two-fold effect on the trunk:

  1. The diaphragm and stomach contents forced upwards
  2. The abdominal contents and pelvic floor are forced downwards.

Is wearing a waist trainer safe during exercise?

No!

Waist trainers make deep breathing difficult – wearing a tight fitting corset during aerobic exercise can therefore pose a major health risk.

The oxygen demand is increased during aerobic fitness exercise and the rate and depth of breathing increase to meet this demand.

Can you imagine the effect of increased pressure with some exercises combined with the added downward pressure of the waist trainer on the pelvic floor?

How Can A Waist Trainer Affect Your Pelvic Floor?

Pelvic floor pressure downwards

Downwards pressure on the pelvic floor

Wearing a tight waist trainer for extended periods of time will cause prolonged downwards pressure on the pelvic floor.

Forcing the pelvic floor downwards increases the risk of pelvic floor strain and weakening especially during exercises or activities that are associated with increased risk of pelvic floor injury (i.e. high impact exercises, intense core exercises and heavy lifting).

This foreseeably increases the risk of prolapse symptoms, incontinence or pelvic pain for women – especially those women living with or at increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction.

It remains to be seen from future research whether tight fitting abdominal garments might even contribute to prolapse worsening in some women.

What Does Waist Training Do To Your Core? Weak abdominal muscles

Wearing a waist trainer or corset temporarily slims the appearance of the tummy and waist but this belies what’s really going on beneath the corset.

Wearing a corset makes the abdominal core muscles lazy.

There’s no need for the abdominal muscles to work when wearing a corset so they become inactive and simply switch off. This is why prolonged back bracing is out of favour with many Physiotherapists.

Rather than toning the abdomen, prolonged wearing of a tight waist trainer will detrain the deep core abdominal muscles making them floppy and weak.

The deep core abdominal muscles act to help support the spine, promote continence and pelvic floor support with the pelvic floor muscles and promote good upright posture.

Detraining the core muscles by continually wearing a waist trainer therefore increases the risk of:

  • Back problems
  • Pelvic floor problems
  • Poor posture

The best way to flatten and tone the abdomen is through pelvic floor safe abdominal core exercises.

Who’s Most At Risk Of Core Dysfunction?

Some of the women who are particularly vulnerable to pelvic floor and core dysfunction wearing a waist trainer include:

  • New mums seeking to return to pre-pregnancy shape – new mums have weak pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles!
  • Overweight women are often already at increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction and could foreseeably seek to trim their appearance with a waist trainer
  • Women who exercise wearing a waist trainer
  • Women with existing pelvic floor problems, especially with pelvic prolapse, incontinence problems or after pelvic floor repair surgery.

Key Points For Waist Trainer Risks

Vintage corset

Victorian Era Corset

At first glance wearing a waist trainer might appear to be the miracle quick fix for trimming the waist.

In reality aside from steering us back to Victorian times and reinforcing unrealistic expectations about physical appearance, the potential health risks of wearing a waist trainer for women need to be shouted from the tree tops!

Wearing a tight waist trainer for extended duration will:

  • Weaken abdominal core muscles
  • Weaken postural muscles
  • Increase the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Delay postnatal recovery
  • Increase the risk of gastric reflux
  • Increase respiratory (breathing) risks if worn during aerobic exercises – particularly intense exercises that have a high oxygen demand.

Unfortunately high profile celebrities who promote waist trainers for slimming and postnatal recovery are unknowingly doing many women a huge disservice.

Waist training provides a great example of how the current celebrity culture and power of celebrity health and fitness endorsements can negatively impact upon the everyday woman’s health and wellbeing.

Click here to learn the best pelvic floor safe exercise for weight loss.


INSIDE OUT – PELVIC FLOOR SAFE EXERCISES

Inside Out Book & DVD

with Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
Michelle Kenway

Learn how to exercise and avoid exercises that overload the pelvic floor causing pelvic floor problems.

Inside Out book and DVD is a complete exercise solution for women seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.

READ MORE NOW

 


Comments

  1. Muscles don’t become “floppy,” they just shrink or grow. (Weak, yes.)

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Sylandi

      Yes you’re correct – muscles cells do increase in size (hypertrophy) or shrink with disuse and injury.

      When a muscle group is not used it becomes weak and loses its former resting tensile strength. This means that a muscle can in effect be described as floppy i.e. lacking the tensile strength that it formerly possessed. Some women cannot overcome their ‘floppy’ lower abdomen that results when the lower deep abdominal muscles are untrained and no amount of dieting changes this. What does change this is appropriate deep abdominal core exercise.

      Cheers
      Michelle

  2. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful information on safe pelvic floor exercises! I look forward to each email, and incorporate the knowledge you impart into my own exercises. Thank you, thank you!
    Barbara

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Thanks Barbara – glad you find this information helps you stay active.

  3. Excellent article, thanks for writing it!

  4. So would it be correct for me to assume that the common advice to wrap the waist for rehabilitation of a diastis is outdated?

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Rebecca
      Wrapping for diastasis is a different issue to this one. In this case wrapping places downward pressure on the pelvic floor which would definitely be a problem for new mums when their pelvic floor is weak. Unfortunately there is no great evidence supporting wrapping for diastasis however gentle tubigrip wrapping may assist recovery – as opposed to these tight waist trainers.

  5. Thank you very much for the education. I did liposuction 10 weeks ago. I have been tieing an elastic like garment round my tummy for the same duration. This is supposed to help the skin or tummy flatten. Now 4 days ago, I felt something at the tip of my vagina, went to see my gynaecologist and he said I have uterine prolapse. He recommended some pelvic exercises for me to do. Could the elastic garment I tie around my tummy be the cause of my prolapse? Please help. My husband is a doc and he says it could be the cause. I was reading on it when I chanced on your page.

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Ummu

      This is a great question. There is no evidence is there are no studies looking into this issue however it makes sense that anything that increases the pressure within the belly will then increase pressure on the pelvic floor. I agree with your husband in that tying a firm garment around your waist will increase pressure on your pelvic floor.

      All the best
      Michelle