Exercise & Prostate Health

For a part of the male anatomy no one sees, the prostate gland sure gets a lot of attention.  And for good reason.  This walnut-sized gland lies just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, a tube that carries urine and semen out of the body.   The prostate gland has the unglamorous yet purposeful job of secreting a slightly alkaline fluid forming the seminal fluid that carries sperm when a man ejaculates. 

When the prostate gland is functioning properly most men rarely give it a second thought.  But that can change quickly since the prostate gland has a propensity to misbehave.  It can make its presence known by being prone to painful infections, inflammation, growing larger with age interfering with urination, and developing prostate cancer. 

To keep this small yet necessary gland healthy, being proactive is pivotal.  One of the best “medicines” to achieve prostate health is regular exercise.  Studies have shown exercise is one way a man can help treat various prostate-related conditions that have an overall impact on prostate health.

Here is what studies say about exercise supporting prostate health:

·         Prostatitis

Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland that can be caused by bacteria.  Symptoms can range from painful and frequent urination, blood in the urine, groin pain, urethral discharge and painful ejaculation. 

A 2007 randomized controlled trial concluded that out of 231 men between the ages of 20-50 years of age with chronic prostatitis, those in an aerobic exercise group who walked briskly three times a week reported less prostatitis pain, less anxiety and depression, and better quality of life than a comparison group of men who did non-aerobic exercise (sit ups, leg lifts, etc.) three times a week. 

Another more recent prospective cohort study among men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study followed from 1986 to 2008 showed that higher levels of leisure-time physical activity may help lower chronic prostatitis. 

·         Benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH

BPH is an enlarged prostate gland which most men will experience as they age.  The problem with BPH is that as the prostate grows bigger it can block the flow of urine through the urethra which can lead to bladder, urinary tract, or kidney problems.  BPH is not prostate cancer and does not increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. 

In an ongoing Harvard-based Health Professionals Study, men who were more physically active were less likely to suffer from BPH.  Even low- to moderate-physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, provided significant benefits.

A study out of South Korea found that out of 582 men over the age of 40, those who were more physically active had a significantly lower risk of BPH than men who had a higher amount of being physically inactive. 

·         Prostate cancer progression

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer morbidity and mortality other than lung cancer in men.  All men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer should make specific lifestyle modification, including increasing exercise, to help slow down or reverse the progression of the disease. 

A 2016 randomised controlled trial of men with prostate cancer found that men who had been referred to community-based exercise programs did show improvements in their strength and physical functioning that had a positive impact on the progression of their prostate cancer.

Another study of more than 1,400 men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, were 57% less likely to have their cancer progress if they walked briskly (not leisurely) for at least three hours a week than men who walked less often and less vigorously.

The Health Professional Follow-up Study also found that men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer who engaged in vigorous activity at least three hours each week had a 61% lower risk of dying from the disease than men who engaged in only one hour or less a week of vigorous activity.