Almost everyone I know, myself included, can probably use more exercise. We all lead busy lives, and it’s easy to make excuses about not going for a jog or heading to the health club. However, a new study suggests that not only are prostate cancer patients not getting the workouts they need, but also their inactivity is somehow connected with depression, discouragement or anxiety.
Many men who experience the prostate cancer journey from detection to therapy and follow-up use it as a wake-up call to make healthier life choices. Improvements in diet, physical activity, weight loss, stress management, and relationships have been shown to “switch on” genes that can control cancer cells. I’m oversimplifying a bit, but interested readers might want to read a short article by Dean Ornish, MD who reports the results when prostate cancer patients embarked on a 3-month change program. You can find the article on pp. 19-20 of Prostate Cancer Communication Choices at http://www.paactusa.org/uploads/cc%20vol%2027-2%20June%2020113416.pdf.
Both strength training and regular aerobics can improve physical and emotional outcomes after any cancer treatment. But how many patients really make a plan and stick to it? A study of 463 Australian prostate cancer survivors who went through treatment with intent to cure examined compliance with exercise guidelines after treatment. In also assessed if inactivity was correlated with “distress, unmet supportive care needs, and quality of life.”[i] The recommended exercise guidelines were 150 minutes of moderately intensive aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of strenuous aerobics per week, and twice weekly resistance exercise. The news wasn’t good. The authors report that
- Only 12.3% met the recommendations
- 2% were insufficiently active
- 5% were inactive.
In other words, almost half of the men were not exercising! These men had higher levels of anxiety or other distress than the others. They needed more care, and they reported being more troubled with treatment side effects. According to the authors, “Lack of physical activity contributed to poorer quality of life.” They noted an urgent need for strategies to boost prostate cancer survivors’ compliance with recommended exercise programs.
Our Center’s philosophy includes support for men’s health and wellness. While we have a “laser focus” on your prostate, it is at the service of the whole person. We understand the need to reduce side effect risks as close to zero as possible, and the desire to quickly resume your work and personal life. But if your lifestyle is short on exercise, I want to go on record as underscoring how important a role it plays for prostate cancer survivors. So to all of you who have been through prostate cancer treatment here or anywhere else, I encourage you to get on board with aerobics and strength training if you’re not already there. In addition to benefiting your cardiovascular health, you will enjoy more energy, sleep better, and potentially deter a recurrence of prostate cancer. As Dr. Ornish sums it up, “Changing your lifestyle can change your genes.”
[i] Galvão D, Newton R, Gardiner R, Girgis A et al. Compliance to exercise-oncology guidelines in prostate cancer survivors and associations with psychological distress, unmet supportive care needs, and quality of life. Psychooncology. 2015 Jun 18. doi: 10.1002/pon.3882. [Epub ahead of print]