16 May The Benefits of Exercise for Prostate Cancer Patients
Prostate cancer affects 1 in 6 Aussie men, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. It’s characterised by uncontrolled rate of cell growth within the prostate that has the potential to metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.
The prostate is gland is situated within the pelvis and underneath the bladder. It’s responsible for producing the fluid needed for ejaculation. Other conditions that involve the prostate include prostatis (inflammation of the prostate) and benign prostate hypertrophy (non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate).
Exercise helps treatment
Exercise is safe and effective in assisting in the treatment of prostate cancer. Evidence shows that prostate cancer patients with higher energy expenditure experience a lower rate of death from both prostate cancer and overall.
PSA doubling time (which is a favourable prognosis) also significantly improves with increased fitness levels. In addition, being physically active can help to manage the symptoms of ADT (which is a common treatment method for prostate cancer).
Exercise can also help you to better tolerate cancer treatment. Relative dose intensity of treatment and ability to tolerate these treatments is higher in groups that have performed exercise during treatment cycles. This means that exercise may allow patients to receive and tolerate a greater percentage of their outlined treatment plan.
Outside of these specific benefits, strength & aerobic exercises have been found to:
• Increase blood flow – An increase in blood flow allows more oxygen to diffuse into the site of the tumour, which can offset the current hypoxic environment
• Improve immune function – Physiological processes, in combination with increased blood flow, allow more of the body’s immune system to flood the infected area
• Help offset the effects of fatigue, sarcopenia (muscle loss), osteoporosis and cardiovascular fitness parameters.
• Reduce fat mass and body weight, while increasing lean body mass.
Why see an Accredited Exercise Physiologist?
There is no “one best program” for prostate cancer patients. An individualised approach needs to be taken to meet your specific needs. This is why seeing an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is the first and most important step in kick-starting your exercise program.
What to expect when you see an Exercise Physiologist…
It all starts with initial consultation. Your Exercise Physiologist will often ask about:
• Your experience with prostate cancer
• Absolute and relative risks for you about to undertake an exercise program
• Side effects of the respective treatment you have undertaken
• Current movement and overall fitness capacity
• Previous injury history
• Your exercise goals
Your AEP uses this information to build a program that is safe, effective and individualised to you.
Exercise therapy is be adapted based on many factors, including:
• Your response to exercise – your exercise physiologist will track things like heart rate, blood pressure and rating of perceived exhaustion (RPE) to understand your body’s response to exercise.
• Treatment cycles – they will know when reduce load or use progressive overload principles to modify your program.
• Symptoms – they will consider treatment associated symptoms such as urinary incontinence, cancer related fatigue and bone pain
Exercise is medicine for those with prostate cancer, but it’s important to get the right advice. Every patient deals with prostate cancer differently. An Exercise Physiologist understands the complexities of this condition, and can help to make your treatment journey easier.
Adam Luther is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist & Performance Coach at Absolute Health Performance.
1. Australian Cancer & Incidence Mortality (2016) – Australian Institute of Health & Welfare
2. Friedenreich, C., Qinggang, W., Neilson, H., Kopcuik, K., McGregor, S., & Courneya, K. (2016). Physical activity & survival after prostate cancer. Journal of European Urology. 70(4): 576-585
3. Hvid, T., Lindegaard, B., Winding, K., Iversen, P., Brasso, K., Solomon, T., Pedersen, B., & Hojman, P. (2016). Effect of a 2-year home-based endurance training intervention on physiological function and PSA doubling time in prostate cancer patients. 27(2): 165-174.
4. Courneya, K., Segal, R., Mackey, J., Gelmon, K., Reid, R., Friedenreich, C., Ladha, A., Proulx, C., Vallance, J., Yasui, Y., & McKenzie, D. (2007). Effects of aerobic and resistance exercise in breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 25(28): 4396-4404.