Physical activity and exercise are critical factors in prostate health for both fighting the disease and preventing recurrence. Physical activity is shown to improve your physical and emotional health. In addition, it can be important for managing your weight, maintaining muscle and bone strength, and helping with potential side effects of prostate cancer treatment.
Physical activity simply means movement of the body that uses energy. Walking, gardening, climbing the stairs, playing soccer or dancing the night away are all good examples of being active. For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous intensity that makes you breathe harder and your heart beat faster.
Moderate physical activities include:
- Walking briskly (about 3 ½ miles per hour)
- Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
- General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
- Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
- Tennis (doubles)
Vigorous physical activities include:
- Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
- Walking very fast (4 ½ miles per hour)
- Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
- Swimming (freestyle laps)
- Basketball (competitive)
- Tennis (singles)
A recent study found that among men with prostate cancer, those who lead active lifestyles have better survival rates than those who do not. Click here to read more about this study. Other studies have indicated that obesity is tied to prostate cancer aggressiveness, doubling the risk of death and quadrupling the risk of metastasis. Go to our Risk page to learn more.
Fortunately regular physical activity and exercise have a positive impact on health and prostate cancer. 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%.
Benefits of Regular Exercise During and After Cancer Treatment
- 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
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.
Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
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 muscles aid in urinary and fecal continence and in sexual performance. They provide structural support to the joints of the pelvis, in addition to spinal support. The muscles contract and relax, just like any other muscle in your body.
The pelvic floor is often compromised in men after prostate cancer treatment. The prostate is located under the bladder, surrounding the urethra. During either surgical or radiation treatment, the prostate is targeted or removed. This process 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.
Ideally, pelvic floor strengthening 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. As with any other muscle group, it takes four to six weeks to make changes in the muscle fibers and see noticeable improvement in strength. Of course, it is never too late to strengthen the pelvic floor. You can begin strengthening right away after surgery. Pelvic floor exercises are typically called Kegel exercises.
How To Perform Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are simple and do not require any special equipment or space. First, you must first find your pelvic floor muscles. Find your pelvic floor by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground/bed. Allow yourself to fully relax, and then attempt isolating these muscles. Imagine trying to lift up the base of your penis. Or, try engaging the muscles you would need to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. These muscles that you feel contracting are your pelvic floor muscles!
When you are contracting your pelvic floor, imagine lifting up as if going up on an elevator. Elevate and contract for 5 seconds. Then slowly allow the muscles to relax, as if descending an elevator for the next 5 seconds. When you finish, you should be fully relaxed. Repeat this contract/relax sequence for 20 repetitions.
Try to perform these 20 repetitions 3-5 times per day. 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.
Normal aging processes and treatment with androgen deprivation therapy can result in the loss of bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weaker, less dense and more likely to break. Hormones, such as testosterone protect against bone loss, so once these hormones are blocked, the bone becomes less dense and can break more easily.
The best exercise for bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces your body to work against gravity. Activities like walking, climbing stairs and weight training 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.
Regular physical activity and exercise can have long term health benefits and significantly impact your prostate cancer journey. 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.
The side effects of prostate cancer treatment can impact your quality of life. Walking at an easy pace for three hours a week, or at a brisk pace for 90 minutes, can alleviate some of the symptoms of prostate cancer treatment, such as fatigue, depression, and body weight. Click here to read more about the benefits of walking.
ZERO is a proud partner of the Medical Fitness Network! MFN is a free service working to improve the quality of life for those 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.