Incontinence, whether from treatment or cancer itself, can greatly affect the quality of life of men with prostate cancer. It can be an isolating, embarrassing struggle. Exercise has been shown to greatly improve quality of life after prostate cancer, however, and can help you overcome side effects like fatigue, pain and bladder control. You get the best results with a mix of full-body physical fitness activities and specific prostate cancer exercises.
Overall Physical Fitness
Many studies have found that exercising as much as possible during and after prostate cancer treatment can improve fatigue, general functioning and quality of life. A study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that a mix of strength and aerobic training, with some vigorous activity mixed in, had the best overall results. Group exercise was more encouraging and produced better results, but you can work out at home, with a personal trainer or physical therapist as well.
Androgen-deprivation therapy can often lead to weakness and fatigue. With this weakness, a major risk for older adults is falls and fractures. Sticking with an exercise program that includes strength training, along with balance and flexibility exercises a couple days, followed by aerobic activity a couple days, can help prevent falls.
Getting started can be challenging. Talk to your doctor, physical therapist or personal trainer at a local gym. These people can help you figure out the best place for you to begin. You may be able to start by walking 20 minutes a day and doing basic exercises with light free weights. Swimming or water aerobics, cycling and group exercise classes are also great places to start. Aim for at least three hours total per week.
Prostate Cancer Exercises
Incontinence is a frustrating side effect of prostate cancer treatment. As the pelvic floor muscles weaken, it gets harder to control the flow of urine. You may have some trouble with leaking a little during the day. Sometimes it clears up over time, but for other survivors, it can be an ongoing struggle. Pelvic floor muscle exercises, called Kegel exercises, can help strengthen those muscles and improve incontinence symptoms. These exercises may also help with getting an erection and bowel control.
Doing Kegel exercises can be a little awkward at first, but they get easier and can be done anytime after you get the hang of it. Pelvic floor muscles run from under the pubic bone to under the spine, supporting your bladder and bowel. Here’s how to do them.
To start strengthening these muscles, you need to isolate them first. The easiest way to find them is to try to stop the flow of urination when you’re urinating. Try not to squeeze your abdominals or buttocks. You don’t want to do this often, but it may help to find the muscles and learn to tighten and relax them the first time. Prostate Cancer UK also gives tips on how to find the pelvic floor muscles and perform Kegels.
To perform Kegels, identify the muscles and tighten as much as you can. Your penis may lift a little. You want to work up to holding for 10 seconds and then relaxing for 10 seconds. This may be difficult at first, especially after surgery. Start by holding for three to five seconds and relaxing for 15, working your way up to 10 and 10. Repeat 10 times, and do these exercises multiple times throughout the day.
Exercise should be incorporated in any prostate cancer treatment plan. Work with your doctor for how, when and how much to do. Your doctor may also be able to explain Kegel exercises and how to do them at home.
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