This is Men’s Health Week in Canada and with prostate cancer being the most common cancer among Canadian men and the 3rd leading cause of death from cancer in men in Canada, we want to discuss the profound effect exercise can have on every stage of this disease.
Exercise for prostate cancer disease prevention is strong – up to 30% risk reduction, which does not include the secondary effects of exercise in terms of weight and blood sugar management, that will further increase the reduction in risk. In addition, exercise is associated with a decrease in the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer as high body fat has been linked with a higher risk of developing a more aggressive prostate cancer.
When prostate cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better and regular health checkups as well as discussing screening with your doctor is important. When diagnosed early enough, active surveillance may be an option, which is given to men with low risk of progression and is a wait and watch approach to see if the disease progresses. In a 2017 study conducted out of both Sunnybrook and Princess Margaret Hospitals here in Toronto, men who exercised vigorously each week had a 58% lower risk of disease progression compared to men who didn’t. This study is the first to look at the benefits of exercise for men with prostate cancer who are under active surveillance and based on this research, all men who are under active surveillance should aim to do regular exercise. There are likely multiple mechanisms underlying the effects of exercise on prostate cancer progression, including reducing the availability of sex hormones and insulin-like growth factors as well as enhancing immune function, and reducing oxidative stress.
Many men under prostate cancer treatment are given Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT). Multiple studies have shown that for these men, exercise can significantly improve their muscle strength, increase their energy, help with weight management and help keep their sex function. Most importantly, higher levels of physical activity are associated with reduced rates of overall and prostate cancer–specific mortality.
Lastly, if treatment for your prostate cancer has ended, exercise is excellent medicine to help reduce your risk for recurrence. The clear message is that exercise benefits cancer survivors in not only reducing their future risk, but improving secondary health outcomes like improving energy, fat mass, bone density, mood, sexual function and self-esteem.
Vigorous physical activities recommended for men with prostate cancer include:
- Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
- Walking very fast (4 ½ miles per hour)
- Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
- Swimming (freestyle laps)
- Tennis (singles)
- Carrying heavy loads
Physical activity and exercise are critical factors in prostate health for both fighting the disease and preventing recurrence. Physical activity is shown to improve your physical and emotional health. In addition, it can be important for managing your weight, maintaining muscle and bone strength, and helping with potential side effects of prostate cancer treatment. Consider physical activity as part of prostate cancer treatment and prioritize time for it – find something you would enjoy doing, drop the excuses and reap the rewards.