Prostate cancer prognosis improves with exercise

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No man wants to hear the words “You have prostate cancer.”  The fear and concern of what lies ahead and what treatments will be required in beating back this unwelcomed diagnosis can be overwhelming.  Sometimes a man may feel that he is at the mercy of his doctor recommending treatments that can be worrisome and possibly could result in long-term side effects.  However, there is one type of therapy all men should strongly consider.  It involves a type of therapy making him in charge with minimal if any side effects.  That therapy involves a man becoming more physically active.

We all know exercise is beneficial for each of us but when faced with a cancer diagnosis, it becomes more personable and relevant than ever.  Prostate cancer patients are no exception. There will be times when it can be difficult to keep active and moving but exercise is very important in the recovery process.

Studies point to vital role of exercise with prostate cancer diagnosis

Evidence is limited but previous studies have suggested that vigorous activity such as brisk walking after a diagnosis of prostate cancer may result in a lower rate of dying from the disease.  It is not known yet if physical activity prior to developing prostate cancer can help lower the risk of contracting it.  But physical activity prior to a cancer diagnosis might be associated with factors that determine the aggressiveness of a prostate cancer tumor.

There is also the association of time spent sitting and the risk of dying from prostate cancer. A large prospective cohort study investigated physical activity of walking only in the absence of other activities and the time spent sitting both before and after a prostate cancer diagnosis in relation to the risk of prostate cancer mortality.

Found was men who increased their physical activity level after a prostate cancer diagnosis had a significant lower risk of dying from the disease compared to men with a minimal amount of activity defined as walking less than one hour each week. 

Similar benefits were found in men who were already physically active prior to a prostate cancer diagnosis.  Men who walked 4-6 hours each week prior to prostate cancer had a significantly lower risk of dying from it.  Men who walked 7 hours or more a week had an even greater reduced risk. 

A Harvard study found that brisk walking prior to prostate cancer diagnosis is associated with more normally shaped blood vessels in prostate tumors.  The normally shaped blood vessels in prostate cancer tumors can inhibit the spread of cancer throughout the body thus lowering the risk of dying from the disease. 

How much and what type?

A physically active lifestyle adopted by all men whether they are a prostate cancer survivor or not can help men to either increase the odds of defeating the disease if diagnosed with it or it may even help prevent it to begin with.

Men with prostate cancer should first consult with their urologist for their recommendation on what type of physical activity is right for them.  If a man was already exercising prior to the diagnosis, he most likely should be able to continue on that path.  Men, who were not physically active before prostate cancer, will need to ease into becoming more mobile until it becomes a regular habit.   

Here are some suggestions on what type of activity men should consider:

·      Strength training

Strength training is an important part of keeping oneself fit.  Preservation of and increasing muscle mass is necessary for maintaining healthy bone mass along in addition to improving balance to prevent falls. 

Types of strength training include push-ups, pull-ups, and lifting weights.  Men may want to work with a personal trainer or physical therapist who can recommend what amount of weight to start with and proper form for lifting.

It is recommended to perform strength training two to three days each week. 

·      Aerobic training

Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, hiking, bicycling, running, swimming, tennis and cross-country skiing.  All of these can increase calorie expenditure while increasing the body’s natural levels of antioxidants and eliminate inflammatory molecules that drive cancer.

Other forms of physical activity include engaging in hobbies such as gardening, dancing, household chores or working at a job that has physical demands. 

As far as the amount of exercise, the American Cancer Society recommends that all survivors of prostate cancer achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week.    Men should consult with his medical team on the types of exercise right for him, the intensity he should aim for, how often and how long he should exercise each time he engages in it.