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Exercise, Physical Activity, and Prostate Cancer

Exercise is a great way to improve both your emotional and physical health. Being physically active can help fight prostate cancer, prevent recurrence, and help with side effect management. 

When you think of physical activity or exercise, images that come to mind might include running, weight machines, and gyms. However, there are many activities that qualify as physical activity. Some include walking, gardening, dancing, or even playing with grandkids. If it makes you breathe harder and your heart beat faster, it’s probably exercise.

Regular physical activity and exercise can have long term health benefits and significantly impact your prostate cancer journey. Click here to read more about the benefits of walking.

It is never too late to become active. Consider joining us at a ZERO Run/Walk near you! Click here for a listing of our events.

Consult your doctors about an exercise program that is right for you, particularly if you’re new to exercise, in treatment, or have advanced prostate cancer.

1280x708-DCRace-montage Moderate physical activities include:

  • Walking briskly (about 3 ½ miles per hour)
  • Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Dancing
  • Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
  • Tennis (doubles)

Vigorous physical activities include:

  • Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
  • Speed walking (4 ½ miles per hour)
  • Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
  • Swimming (freestyle laps)
  • Basketball (competitive)
  • Tennis (singles)

Benefits of Regular Exercise During and After Cancer Treatment

Regular physical activity can have a positive impact on health and prostate cancer. A recent study found that among men with prostate cancer, those who lead active lifestyles have better survival rates than those who do not. One study found men who exercise the equivalent of only one to three hours of walking each week have an 86% lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Further research has demonstrated three or more hours of vigorous exercise lowered the risk of prostate cancer death by 61%.

In addition, exercise can help to:

  • Reduce anxiety and fatigue
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase feelings of optimism
  • Improve heart health
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Boost muscle strength and endurance
  • Maintain bone density and fight bone loss

Side effects from cancer and certain treatments such as fatigue or sleep problems can make it difficult to find the motivation and energy to be active. It may be helpful to speak with a certified health and fitness professional or a physical therapist. Talk with your treatment team for suggestions and a referral to a skilled professional.

Managing Side Effects Through Exercise

Bone Health

Treatment with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) can result in the loss of bone density. Hormones, such as testosterone, protect against bone loss. Once these hormones are blocked, the bone becomes less dense, which can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weaker, less dense, and more likely to break. 

The best exercise for bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces your body to work against gravity. Weight-bearing activities can help prevent bone loss and provide other benefits as well. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, as well as exercise, can help keep your bones strong. Click here to learn more about prostate cancer and bone health

Physical activities for bone health include:

  • Weight training/ lifting
  • Walking
  • Climbing stairs

Urinary Incontinence & Erectile Dysfunction

Men undergoing prostate cancer treatment should give special attention to ensuring good pelvic floor strength in order to reduce the side effects of treatment and improve urinary and sexual function.

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and connective structures that are found in the region of your pelvis between your legs, supporting the functions of the bowel, bladder, and sexual organs. 

The pelvic floor is often compromised after prostate cancer treatment. Surgical or radiation treatment can damage the surrounding tissues, including the muscles of the pelvic floor. When the pelvic floor muscles are compromised, it can lead to weakness, pain, and dysfunction.

Pelvic floor strengthening, or Kegel exercises, ideally begins before treatment with surgery or radiation. The earlier you strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and make these exercises part of your regular routine, the better the outcomes.


How To Perform Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises are simple and do not require any special equipment or space. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, tighten the muscles that stop urination midstream or from passing gas. Laying down might make it easier to identify these muscles. These muscles that you feel contracting are your pelvic floor muscles.

To perform Kegels, tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then slowly relax for five seconds. When you get to five, you should be fully relaxed. Try it a few times in a row. Repeat this contract-and-relax sequence for 20 repetitions.

Try to perform these 20 repetitions 3-5 times per day. It’s best and easiest to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine by identifying patterns or activities. 

For example:

  • Identify a routine task, such as brushing your teeth, and do a set of Kegel exercises at that time.
  • Do another set after you urinate.
  • Just before and during an activity that puts pressure on your abdomen (ex. heavy lifting, coughing, sneezing) contract your pelvic floor muscles.

The beauty of these exercises is that they can be done virtually anywhere and in any position, once you get the hang of them. They are easily done without anyone noticing. Don’t worry if it takes you a little while to properly isolate and consciously engage your pelvic floor muscles. It can take some practice.

Click here to read Regaining Control of the Pelvic Floor by Amy Vant, PT, DPT for more information.

If Kegel exercises have not been improving your symptoms, go to our pages on Urinary Incontinence and Erectile Dysfunction for more information and consult a doctor or physical therapist.

Finding a Fitness Professional

ZERO is a proud partner of the Medical Fitness Network! MFN is a free service working to improve the quality of life for those with chronic medical conditions, like prostate cancer, by connecting them to the most qualified health and fitness professionals. Visit their website to find a qualified wellness, healthcare, or fitness professional in your area.