Managing Treatments

Prostate Cancer: How Exercise Can Help Your Treatment

Exercise can potentially increase your chances of surviving prostate cancer. If exercise it's already a part of your life, it will be easier to fit it into your treatment schedule.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that for every 100,000 men, about 105 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. This makes this type of cancer leading cause of cancer in males, and the medical community is always looking for new ways to treat it. One promising component of treatment may be exercise, and there is a growing body of research to support this easy-to-add step to your routine.

How Can Exercise Help?

As reported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, men with who regularly walked briskly for exercise prior to their diagnosis “had healthier-looking, more normally shaped blood vessels in their prostate tumors.” Men who didn’t exercise were more likely to have small, irregularly shaped blood vessels, which are associated with increased risk of dying from their cancer. To test this theory further, researchers studied the prostates of 572 men diagnosed with the cancer. The men who reported the fastest walking pace had more of the protective, normal looking blood vessels in their prostate as compared to those who walked slower. Researchers postulated that the healthier blood vessels may both inhibit cancer growth and improve the body’s response to cancer treatment, but the direct connection has yet to be verified.

Another study on about 2,700 men published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that men who walked briskly for 90 minutes or more per week lowered their risk of death by 46 percent compared to men who walked less quickly and less often. Furthermore, men who exercised vigorously for 3 or more hours per week had about a 60 percent decreased risk of dying.

How Can You Add Exercise to Your Life?

Today’s research has linked exercise to reduced risk of prostate cancer, but the direct connection has not yet been discovered. It’s possible that people who exercise more also participate in other healthy behaviors that may also be reducing their risk. But the benefits of exercise are looking more promising: Exercise can not only help you beat cancer, but it also keeps you fit, relieves stress and improves your mood throughout treatment. If you don’t have a consistent exercise regimen, then there has never been a better time to start. Before engaging in anything strenuous, always consult with your care team first, as certain factors may affect your ability to exercise according to the American Cancer Society.

To help keep you on a schedule, set a reminder on your phone to take a daily walk. You probably want to start small, with a 10- to 20-minute walk around the block. You can even ask your caregiver to walk with you and use it as a way to connect and talk about things other than cancer. To keep it interesting, you can plan out your walks to hit up different landmarks in your neighborhood each time you stroll. And if you and your medical team think you’re up for it, sign up for a charity walk. Another good way to scratch an athletic itch, if you’re part of a support group, is to plan a group outing to an exercise class, like gentle yoga or a pick-up basketball game.

While the research on the direct connection between prostate cancer and survival is still out, exercise has some promising benefits for men undergoing treatment. Just remember to pay attention to what your body is telling you when you exercise, bring lots of water and have fun!

Your best form of treatment is talking to your doctor. Before adding more activity to your schedule, consult with your treatment team about best practices.

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Larry Istrail
Larry Istrail