Patients who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer often wonder whether they can exercise during — and after — their treatment. The answer, in both cases, is an emphatic yes. Physical activity can help patients live longer, improve their quality of life and help alleviate some of the side effects of prostate cancer therapies.
In general, it is always beneficial for prostate cancer patients to have an exercise regimen and for the majority of men they are completely physically able to participate as long as patients don’t overdo it.
Exercise has positive effects for prostate cancer patients
More than 3 million men are currently living with prostate cancer, a cancer that develops in the small, walnut-sized gland located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It’s one of the most common types of cancer in America; about 1 in 9 men will develop the disease at some point in their lives, according to the American Cancer Society.
Research shows that for people who have prostate cancer, exercise can reduce the risk of dying from any cause. That research, published February 2011 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, also found that vigorous exercise can lower the risk of dying from prostate cancer itself — men who did at least three hours of vigorous activity a week were 61 percent less likely to die of prostate cancer than people who did less than one hour a week.
More recently, a January 2016 European Urology study followed people with prostate cancer for up to 17 years and found that, among those who survived at least two years, the patients who were more physically active after diagnosis lived longer.
Exercise also helps protect against other health issues including heart disease, which can occur in people who have prostate cancer or have had it in the past, according to the American College of Cardiology.
Exercise is also recommended for people with prostate cancer who are doing “active surveillance,” i.e., monitoring their cancer closely with regular blood tests, rectal exams and biopsies. This is mostly because exercise has been shown to be helpful for prostate cancer in general. At this time, it’s still unclear whether exercise can help keep prostate cancer from progressing. Experts think that exercise may aid in preventing prostate cancer recurrence if it leads to weight loss for people who are overweight or obese.