Sperling Prostate Center

Prostate Cancer Patients Need More Exercise

UPDATE: 3/21/2023
Originally published 11/30/2015

It is now commonly acknowledged that patients who go through treatment for prostate cancer (PCa) often experience lower quality of life (QoL) on the other side. It’s not just physical, either.

Emotional, sexual, social and overall QoL are impacted—and more attention should be paid to this issue and what to do about it.[i]

One way to correct this situation is through exercise, as demonstrated by a review of 33 published randomized, controlled trials involving a total of 2567 participants.

The paper by Andersen, et al. (2022) found that while there was only a small effect on cancer-specific quality of life, those who exercised enjoyed improved cardiovascular and metabolic health.

But which type of exercise is more effective: aerobic, resistance, or a combination? Aerobic workouts emerged as the exercise of choice for the greatest average benefit.

The authors wrote, “A positive significant effect was seen in lower body strength, whole-body fat mass, general mental health, and blood pressure.”[ii]

That said, the Mayo Clinic points out that a side effect of aerobic exercise is, in fact, better overall quality of life—not to mention protecting cognitive function as you age, including thinking skills, judgment, reasoning and memory.

If you’ve had PCa but are slacking off on exercise, grab your running shoes and head outside or to that gym. Things can only get better in terms of a well-functioning mind and overall health, both of which play a role in recognizing and reducing your risk of recurrence.


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.”


NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Briggs LG, Sentana-Lledo D, Lage DE, Trinh QD, Morgans AK. Optimal assessment of quality of life for patients with prostate cancer. Ther Adv Med Oncol. 2022 Dec 10;14:17588359221141306.
[ii] Andersen MF, Midtgaard J, Bjerre ED. Do Patients with Prostate Cancer Benefit from Exercise Interventions? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jan 15;19(2):972.
[iii] 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]


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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