BY ANKIT AGARWAL, MD
Exercise has a multitude of benefits. However, starting or maintaining an exercise program is especially important for men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer! Multiple studies have shown the benefit of a structured exercise program for men with prostate cancer.
Exercise is great…but does it really help reduce side effects from prostate cancer treatment?
YES! A group of authors from Australia recently published a systematic review and meta-analysis of all the data analyzing the impact exercise on outcomes for patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer. The study can be found here. The authors looked at 6 randomized trials involving 391 prostate cancer patients. In these studies, patients all underwent radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Patient were then randomized to either undergoing a structured exercise program or not undergoing the structured exercise program. Programs consisted of either aerobic exercise such as walking or cycling, resistance training only, or a combination of aerobic and resistance training. Most of the exercise programs recommended sessions of 25-55 minutes done 3-5 times per week.
Unsurprisingly, exercise programs did have an impact on overall physical function. Men who underwent exercise programs had increased upper and lower body muscle strength at the end of treatment. They also had improved functional exercise capacity and cardiorespiratory fitness.
However, the study also showed an improvement in prostate cancer treatment related toxicity outcomes. Specifically, patients who underwent exercise programs had better sexual functioning and decreased urinary symptoms at the end of treatment as compared to patients who did not undergo the exercise program. In fact, patients in the exercise intervention group had a slightly, although statistically insignificant, improvement in their sexual functioning at the end of treatment as compared to before initiation of their prostate cancer treatment. Finally, the rectal toxicity scores during radiation were lower in patients who underwent a home-based walking program as compared to patients who did not undergo home base walking program.
What are the benefits of Exercise for men with Prostate Cancer?
Summarizing the data, here are a few of the benefits of starting an exercise program during and after your treatment for prostate cancer:
- Improved physical functioning
- Improved energy
- Improved muscle strength
- Decreased urinary toxicity from radiation
- Improved sexual functioning
What can I do for exercise?
Joining the local gym or YMCA are always great options for men with prostate cancer looking to get started with a structured exercise program. You should always consult with your primary care physician before initiating any new, rigorous exercise program. However, here are a few ideas for those men just looking to get started:
- Set aside 30-50 minutes at least 3-5 times a week to exercise
- Walk briskly for 30-50 minutes per day
- Use a stationary bike or actual bicycle at a moderate pace for 30-50 minutes per day
- Swim for 30-50 minutes per day
- Play a sport (basketball, tennis, badminton) for 30-50 minutes a day with friends
- Find workout videos on YouTube
Where can I read more about exercise and cancer?
Our friends at the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology all have excellent information about exercise during cancer treatment. Please follow those links for more information!
Integrating Exercise into your Prostate Cancer Treatment
Men with prostate cancer have many treatment options. Options often include active surveillance, focal therapy, prostatectomy, external beam radiation, and LDR prostate seed brachytherapy. I encourage all men to discuss all of these treatment options with their physicians before choosing the treatment option that works best for them. LDR prostate seed brachytherapy, in particular, is a treatment option that is often not discussed despite its very high success rates with relatively low toxicity rates compared to other treatment options.
At Western Radiation Oncology, Dr. Ankit Agarwal and Dr. Steve Kurtzman pride themselves on being able to offer a wide range of prostate cancer treatment options with their partner urologists across California. Please contact us here to make an appointment for a consultation today.