Exercising for Prostate Cancer: Before, During, and After Diagnosis
Since I received my biopsy results of Gleason 8 (increased to Gleason 9 after my prostatectomy) on May 3, 2013, prostate cancer (PCa) has been a major factor in my life—both in my quality of life and survival. And while I was a big exerciser prior to my diagnosis, my PCa had a big assist in growing from Agent Orange.
Let's talk about exercise
Today I’d like to discuss something that helps tremendously with PCa, both in reducing the chances of getting it and increasing our odds of surviving it. And I know the Community Rules don’t allow profanity, but I have to use what many people consider a very dirty word -- exercise. For those of us in the north (Patti and I live in New Jersey), summer is right around the corner, which is a perfect time for all of us who’ve suffered through what seemed like an endless winter to start exercising outside.
I do the exercise bike when it’s super cold (below 20 degrees); snowing and/or just icy or raining. I don’t know about you, but an hour on the exercise bike feels 5 times as long as a 6 hour ride (100 miles) outside, but for me doing Sudoku as I ride indoors gets me through it.
How does activity and weight impact prostate cancer?
The first article is from Johns Hopkins (JH) Medicine by Dr. Michael Johnson, a JH urologist, and is entitled, “The impact of physical activity and obesity on prostate cancer”.
The main point in the article looks at the factors that play into prostate cancer. Researchers are realizing that it's not solely exercise that matters, but also the subsequent weight loss. "Studies have linked obesity with particularly aggressive forms of prostate cancer, and separate research has also connected weight gain with an increased risk of recurrence in men who have already been treated..." explains Dr. Johnson.1
Additionally, the study shows that obesity can also interfere with prostate cancer screening tools, such as PSA tests or digital rectal exams. This can then make it harder to diagnose the disease in its early stages.1
Should you exercise if you have prostate cancer?
The next article on exercise and PCa is written by Carol Michaels, MBA, ACE, ACSM and entitled, “Should you exercise if you have prostate cancer”.
Prostate cancer treatments, like androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), can be brutal physically and mentally. Exercise can help lessen these common treatment side effects, such as muscle loss or osteoporosis, and it can even aid in reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Exercise also has benefits to our mental health, like reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, which are often experienced by men with prostate cancer.
Additionally, the muscle that surrounds the prostate may be weakened from surgery or other treatments which can lead to urinary incontinence. There are varying degrees of urinary incontinence from mild to severe. Speaking personally from experience, none of them are any fun. Exercise can be one way to combat muscle weakness and urinary incontinence.2
Recommendations for moderate activities
The next article that I really like because it gives GOOD recommendations for the levels of exercise we should be doing. I personally disagree with the American Heart Associations’ (AHA) exercise recommendations. Some years ago I read the AHA has such low exercise standards because if they said what we really should be doing, many, many people wouldn’t even start exercising. An article from Zero Cancer, titled "Exercise and Activity", recommends moderate activities to start, which include:3
- Walking briskly (about 3 ½ miles per hour)
- Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
- General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
- Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
- Tennis (doubles)
The article also gives what it calls vigorous physical activities. Please don’t say you’re too old to do this. I’ll be 75 three weeks after writing this blog, and I do 4 miles per hour walking (my back-up exercise) and I do an hour when I walk (i.e. 4 miles and 15 miles an hour on my bike). I’m back up to two hour rides on weekends. However, it's important to remind you to always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Read Part II of Exercising for Prostate Cancer - Before, During, and After Diagnosis.
Have you experienced side effects from androgen deprivation therapy (ADT)?