August 05, 2020

Exercise and Prostate Cancer: Is It Safe?

Exercise is a great way to stay trim and boost your heart health, but researchers are now finding another benefit: better odds against prostate cancer. But how does exercise affect men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer? Here we’ll outline those benefits, as well as the benefits of exercise in reducing your chances of getting prostate cancer. 

Should You Exercise with Prostate Cancer?

Emerging scientific evidence suggests that exercising for a few hours a week can help keep prostate tumors from advancing or prevent them from developing in the first place. Here are some of the benefits of adopting an exercise routine:

  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Building muscle strength
  • Increased flexibility
  • Combatting the effects of prostate cancer treatment, including fatigue, weight gain, and bone loss
  • Increased energy
  • Reducing your risk of other chronic diseases
  • Improved sleep

What’s the Best Exercise for Prostate Cancer?

Nearly any type of exercise can be beneficial to prostate cancer patients and maintaining a balanced exercise program benefits all areas of the body. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to do vigorous exercise to see the benefits and that high-intensity exercise isn’t recommended for prostate cancer patients. Here are some of the exercises that are beneficial for prostate cancer patients:

  • Kegel exercises
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Strength training

Men’s Health: Deferred Maintenance

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Kegel Exercises for Prostate Cancer Patients

Kegel exercises are easy exercises you can do before and after your prostate cancer treatment to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles help control urine flow and exercising them with Kegels is one of the most effective ways of controlling incontinence without medication or surgery. 

How Do I Do a Kegel Exercise?

  • Tighten and hold your pelvic floor muscles for five seconds
  • Relax your pelvic muscles

You have just done one Kegel exercise. Plan on doing 10-20 Kegel exercises three to four times every day. Another way to tighten your pelvic floor muscles is to:

  • Squeeze the muscles in your anus (like you’re holding in a bowel movement)
  • Relax your pelvic floor muscles after each attempt
  • Repeat this exercise 10-20 times 

When doing your Kegel exercises, remember to:

  • Don’t hold your breath
  • Don’t push down. Squeeze your muscles together tightly and imagine that you’re trying to lift this muscle up
  • Don’t tighten the muscles in your stomach, buttocks, or thighs
  • Relax your pelvic floor muscles between each squeeze

Before Prostate Cancer Surgery

Doing Kegel exercises before you have prostate cancer surgery can help minimize muscle weakness and reduce your risk of incontinence. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re doing your exercises:

  • You can do Kegel exercises while lying down or sitting in a chair, whichever is more comfortable for you
  • Contract your pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest
  • Repeat this five times
  • Perform this exercise three times a day until your surgery

After Prostate Cancer Surgery

After your catheter is removed, talk with your nurse or doctor about when you can resume Kegel exercises or when to start them if you weren’t doing them before. Here are some things to do when doing Kegel exercises after surgery:

  • Start with a gentle contraction (less than 100% effort) while lying down
  • Hold the contraction for three seconds, and then relax for 15 seconds
  • Do five repetitions, three times a day
  • Increase the intensity of the contraction each day
  • Each day, increase the contraction by one second and reduce the relaxation time by one second 
  • Do this until you reach a 10-second hold and a 10-second rest
  • Continue doing five repetitions, three times a day
  • The next step is to do the above exercises while sitting or standing
  • Repeat the same intervals as above, starting with a five-second hold and a 15-second relax, working up to a 10-second hold and 10-second relax

After doing these exercises, you should notice a gradual decrease in urine leakage and an increase in your ability to wait longer between times you need to urinate. Talk with your doctor if you continue to have difficulty with leakage or increased frequency of urination.

Aerobic Exercise for Prostate Cancer Patients

Doing aerobic exercise is a great way to boost your cardiovascular health and maintain healthy body weight, especially since weight gain can be a side effect of some common prostate cancer treatments. Here are some recommended aerobic exercises:

  • Walking
  • Rowing
  • Racquetball
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Aerobics
  • Gardening

Strength Training, Weight Lifting, and Prostate Cancer

Strength training, also known as resistance training, can help you increase your muscle mass and bone density, which can be affected by many common prostate cancer treatments. Strength training doesn’t require lifting weights, so here are some things you can do in addition to lifting weights:

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Abdominal crunches
  • Resistance band training
  • Strength training machines
  • Bodyweight exercises

While strength training is beneficial to prostate cancer patients, make sure to talk with your care team about the levels and types of strength training that will be best for you.

Precautions When Exercising with Prostate Cancer

Exercise is beneficial for prostate cancer patients, there are some precautions you should take that those without prostate cancer may not need to take. Talk with your healthcare team if you experience any of the side-effects from prostate cancer treatment listed below:

  • Fatigue. Physical fatigue can make it harder for you to exercise vigorously, so make sure to monitor your energy levels and adjust your exercises accordingly. 
  • Osteoporosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about what kind of weight-bearing exercises you can do safely to strengthen your bones.
  • Bone metastases. When cancer cells spread to your bones, there’s a greater risk for fracture. Perform balance exercises and other exercises that reduce your risk of falling.
  • Cardiopulmonary issues. Make sure to begin your exercise program under medical supervision if you have weakened heart muscles or an irregular heartbeat.
  • Lymphedema. Identified by swelling in a part of your body, such as a leg or trunk, lymphedema is a common side effect that can occur after the removal of lymph nodes. Maintaining range of motion and avoiding infection is important when you have lymphedema, so make sure to progress slowly and modify your exercises accordingly. Talk with your doctor if you have any swelling.
  • Peripheral neuropathy. This common side effect of cancer treatment affects the nervous system, causing numbness, loss of sensation, tingling, and pain in different areas of your body. For example, if neuropathy is affecting your hands, it may be difficult to safely hold hand weights, so consider using tubing or bands with handles. 
  • Neutropenia. Cancer treatment can cause a decrease in white blood cells, which is called neutropenia. This can increase your risk of infection, so try to avoid crowded gyms that aren’t cleaned regularly. Talk to your doctor about exercises you can do at home. 
  • Myelosuppression. With myelosuppression, your bone marrow slows its production of blood cells and platelets, making you more likely to bruise and bleed. Make sure to take care when using exercise machines and equipment.

Learn More About Prostate Cancer Exercise Programs with Baptist Health

Exercise can help reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer and can also help any tumors you may already have from advancing. Find a provider to learn more information about exercise and prostate cancer and find out how to create a prostate cancer exercise program.

Learn More.