Exercise has many benefits for men with prostate cancer, both during and after treatment. Staying active helps you manage treatment side effects such as urinary incontinence, build your strength, and lift your spirits.
Regular exercise and healthy eating may reduce the risk of cancer returning after treatment, especially if you have early-stage prostate cancer, says Evan Pesek, MD, an oncologist at American Cancer Centers Hospital in Zion, Illinois.
He says the type of exercise you do is up to you.
“Searching for the benefits of activity for men with prostate cancer doesn’t go into the specific exercises to do. Your doctor may tell you to eat healthy and exercise, but some men don’t know where to start,” Pesek says.
It is suggested that you change your exercise routine to include both aerobic and strength training. Choose activities that you enjoy, so you’ll want to keep doing them.
He says, “Do the exercises that work for you. Some of my patients lift weights in the gym. Others do cross-training. Some walk or run.”
What do you do before you start your exercise routine?
Before you begin an exercise program, talk with your oncologist. Ask what activities are best for you now to reduce the risk of injury or embarrassment. Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist.
“It depends on where you are in the treatment process,” says Pesek. “Men who have radiation therapy can work. If you’re a man who just had prostate surgery, you may not be able to do pelvic floor exercises or ride a bike at first, because you may pee in your pants.” .
“But two or three weeks after surgery, once the catheter is out, go see a physical therapist who will guide you on how to exercise safely. He can show you how to do pelvic floor exercises to practice at home, all day, every day.”
Pelvic floor training, also known as Kegel exercises, strengthens the muscles that control bladder and bowel functions. They can relieve incontinence for men who have had surgery to remove the prostate, which is called a radical prostatectomy.
“Work with your therapist to learn how to properly perform pelvic floor exercises. They can insert a small monitor into your buttocks. When you contract your pelvic floor muscles, the monitor detects them, and the therapist can show you on a chart that you’re working on the right muscles,” Pesek says.
Once you learn to tighten the right muscles, build a set of 20 pelvic floor exercises at least three times per day. Within a few weeks, you will notice better urine flow control and fewer leaks. Don’t stop doing your daily sets.
Exercising combats the side effects of medication
Androgen suppression therapy (AST), or medications that lower male hormones to suppress the growth of prostate tumors, may cause side effects such as:
- loss of muscle strength
- loss of bone density
- Increased levels of fats in the blood
- Emotional ups and downs
Exercise can counteract many of these negative effects.
“When you take testosterone from someone, their muscles can turn mush. Men can also experience hot flashes and depression. Doing cardio and strength training can help you maintain your muscle mass and prevent weight gain. Some men even lose weight,” says Pesek. “.
If you are overweight or obese, prostate cancer is more likely to return after treatment. Cardio exercises, the kind that get your heart pumping like biking or brisk walking, help control your weight. This not only improves long-term survival from prostate cancer, but also reduces the risk of heart disease.
Moreover, exercise can improve your mood and outlook. It helps relieve anxiety and depression about prostate cancer or deal with the side effects of treatment.
“You will generally feel better if you exercise. There is a release of endorphins with exercise. It can even help you sleep better,” Pesek says.
Pesek’s father, 78, recovering from prostate cancer, walks briskly every day. “He’s at the best of his life and says that since he’s been more active, he feels happier,” Pesek says.
How much exercise do you need?
Start slow and gain strength and endurance, Pesek suggests.
A physical therapist or personal trainer can assess your condition, create an exercise routine that is safe and appropriate for you, and help you stay motivated to stick to it.
“I have some patients who start exercising, over-exercise and develop muscle soreness, and then don’t go back to the gym for a few weeks,” he says. “It is important to exercise safely. A therapist or coach can help you learn how to do the exercises properly. Some hospitals even have gyms with physical therapists to train them.”
Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week or more if you feel up to it. Include a mix of:
- Cardio activities, such as walking, swimming, cycling and jogging to improve heart health and manage weight
- Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights or dancing to prevent bone loss
- Strength training, such as weight lifting and pelvic floor training, to build muscle strength and reduce bladder leakage
“Yoga is also a good exercise to improve your strength and flexibility. Pilates is also a good option, and I would also recommend meditation,” Pesek says. He says slow movements such as yoga, tai chi or Pilates may be a good option on days when you feel tired.
On days when you feel sluggish or tired, try doing even a small amount of cardio, he suggests.
He says, “The best cure for fatigue is doing something. You might get tired. But any amount of activity will make you feel better. Drag that stationary bike in front of the TV, take off the clothes hanging on it, and ride and ride for a while. You’ll perform better in the long run if you do that.” “.