People are reporting spinning-related UTIs and yeast infections - but they're not inevitable

·5 min read
spin class
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  • Some at-home cyclists suspect their hobby is contributing to vaginal health issues like UTIs.

  • A study showed female cyclists are more prone to such issues than swimmers and runners.

  • Changing your attire, saddle position, and post-spin hygiene routine can support your pelvic health.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Mandy, a 30-something in the Washington, DC, area, had never gotten a yeast infection - until she got a Peloton, the increasingly popular at-home stationary bike that allows users to stream live classes.

"I have to imagine my form had something to do with it," she told Insider.

A private Facebook group for female Peloton riders has dozens of posts and hundreds of comments related to the same concerns. "So I am pretty sure I have my first yeast infection from cycling," one member wrote.

"I've had my bike almost a month. I absolutely love it! The problem...UTIs! Can this be corrected or do I need to send my bike back?" another asked.

Peloton sales surged 172% in the third quarter of 2020, as both former in-person spinning devotees and new fanatics look for ways to stay fit at home. Other brands of stationary bikes have also benefited from the pandemic.

Read more: A 27-year-old burned 7,500 calories cycling the height of Mount Everest in under 7 hours

But while spinning has wide-ranging short- and long-term health benefits, some new and increasingly active riders are discovering the sport can come with uncomfortable pelvic health consequences. The issue isn't exclusive to any one spin bike brand, but Peloton's popularity and online communities make anecdotes from its users especially salient.

Dr. Katherine Amin, a urologist at the University of Miami Health System, told Insider that she hasn't seen an uptick of cycling-related conditions in her practice, but "it is a concern with the amount of in-home cycling being done."

Avid cyclists tend to have more UTIs, but better overall sexual function, than swimmers and runners

A 2018 study including over 3,000 women in five countries looked at the likelihood of gynecologic and urinary issues among cyclists, runners, and swimmers.

The results were mixed. "High-intensity" outdoor cyclists, or those who had cycled for more than two years and rode an average of 25 miles at least three times a week, reported better sexual and urinary function than swimmers and runners.

However, both low- and high-intensity cyclists reported more UTIs, genital numbness, and saddle sores than the other athletes. It's unclear how the results would translate to indoor riders. On the one hand, they could be more susceptible since road bikes' saddles can be more personalized; on the other, spinners don't have to endure unpredictable bumps in the road, Amin said.

Read more: Everything you need to start working out safely and effectively in 2021, according to personal trainers, nutritionists, and exercise scientists

Experts told Insider cycling, like horseback riding, can lead to these issues due to the bike seat's shape and size, a rider's attire and post-spin hygiene, individual differences, and other factors.

Yeast infections can pop up "due to poor vaginal ventilation and moisture buildup," Dr. Sherry Ross, and OB-GYN and author of "She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health," told Insider. Likewise, UTIs can arise from bacteria around the entrance to the vagina and urethra, she said.

The saddle's constant pressure on the vagina can lead to skin cysts, people who shave their pubic hair may be especially prone to saddle sores, and heavy sweaters may experience heat rash, especially if they don't change clothes soon after, Ross added.

Some riders might get "prickly heat rash," or a stinging rash with small itchy bumps, if sweat traps bacteria on the skin and blocks the sweat glands, she said.

Peloton
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Invest in padded shorts and shower after riding

You don't have to give up your spin bike if UTIs and other vaginal health issues are plaguing you.

First, gear up.

"Wearing clean sportswear to allow your skin to breathe is an easy remedy in lessening the sweat, bacterial, and foul odor build-up while working out," Ross said. Amin recommends wearing padded bike shorts, too.

Since the bike seat's position may contribute to issues like numbness and saddle sores, make sure it's properly adjusted to your body, and considering spending more time climbing out of the saddle.

After your ride, shower off, using antibacterial soap around your vulva, and change into clean clothes quickly. If you can't, Ross recommends giving your pelvic area a quick clean with a vaginal hygiene wipe.

She also suggests avoiding long rides during your period, since a tampon's string can cause irritation to the vaginal tissue.

For new riders, Amin said slowly increasing your time on the bike can help your body adapt. Staying hydrated is also key to preventing UTIs, and people prone to them can take a cranberry supplement daily, she said.

If you do get a sore, Amin recommends taking at least a week off the bike. Anyone concerned they have a UTI should contact a healthcare professional. Left untreated, the infection can lead to serious kidney complications.

Any unidentifiable pain, discoloration, or skin changes should be checked out too, since some cycling-related ailments have similar symptoms as sexually-transmitted infections and other illnesses.

"The benefits of cardiovascular exercise has long-term positive effects on your heart, brain, and mood," Amin said. "I encourage everyone to be active, and in-home cycling is a very safe method given the risks associated with COVID in other settings."

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