Who would ever guess a gland the size of a chestnut could cause so many issues for men? This gland known as the prostate gland lies just below the bladder and has the unique function of producing the fluid which protects and enriches sperm that makes up semen.
For many years during a man’s life the prostate quietly does its job with few if any problems. But as a man ages, problems can begin to escalate. The prostate is prone to painful infections and inflammation (prostatitis), it can grow larger interfering with urination (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), and then there is cancer of the prostate which is the second most common cancer found in American men.
There are many lifestyle habits important for all men to adopt to keep their prostate healthy – eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking. Physical activity is another known habit men can take advantage of possibly preventing prostate problems. Here are reasons why exercise may have a beneficial impact on keeping a man’s prostate in tip top shape that just might give a man an advantage from developing prostatitis, BPH, or prostate cancer:
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland that is most common in men under the age of 50. The cause of this condition is usually due to an infection with almost 2 million men who develop it each year.
Prostatitis can either be classified as acute or chronic. Chronic prostatitis is more prevalent and is characterized by recurrent bacterial infections. Two different studies have looked at whether exercise could lower a man’s risk of this painful ongoing condition.
The first study looked into the role of physical activity on how it affected chronic prostatitis. Researchers recruited 231 men with the condition and had not had any luck with conventional treatments. Participants were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise group or a placebo/stretching and motion exercise group.
At the completion of the study, participants assigned to the aerobic exercise group had significantly superior improvements compared to the placebo/stretching and motion exercise group.
A much larger cohort study conducted in 2015 also examined the relation between physical activity and chronic prostatitis of more than 20,000 male health professionals. Results showed that middle-age and older men with a higher-leisure time physical activity had lower risk of chronic prostatitis compared to men who were not as active.
· BPH prevention
BPH is an enlargement of the prostate gland that occurs in men as they age. When the prostate grows larger it can block the flow of urine through the urethra, a tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. This can lead to urinary difficulties such a frequent urination especially at night.
A study out of South Korea wanted to find out if exercise, as part of a healthy lifestyle, was a protective factor preventing BPH occurrence. Results showed that reducing sedentary time could have a protective effect on reducing the incidence of BPH.
Another study of the ongoing Harvard-based Health Professionals Follow-up Study found men who were more physically active were less likely to develop BPH. They found that even low-to-moderate-intensity physical activity such as walking regularly at a moderate pace provided benefits to the prostate.
· Prostate cancer
The American Cancer Society states that 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Most cases occur in older men with the average age being 66 and is rare before age 40. Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American men. It would behoove a man to do whatever he could to help prevent it. Exercise is one way to do this.
A study looking into the evidence of exercise’s benefits on reducing prostate cancer risk found that men who are physically active had lower levels of systemic inflammatory mediators that could decrease development of this disease.
Another study looked at specific health habits after a prostate cancer diagnosis and the risk of disease recurrence, progression, or death. What was found was that even though diet played a role in prostate cancer progression, it was exercise and smoking cessation that appeared to have a larger impact on reducing the risk of prostate cancer progression and death.
· Making exercise a lifestyle habit
It is no secret exercise must be part of a healthy lifestyle not only for protecting the prostate but in other areas such as cardiovascular health too. When men adopt a well-rounded, consistent exercise program it can result in benefits to the prostate.
Men should find an exercise program they enjoy and that their doctor approves of. Always consult with a doctor before embarking on an exercise routine to make sure it is based on your health and fitness level.
It is best to incorporate an exercise program that includes at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on all or most days of the week.