Receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis is devastating, but if you catch it early enough, it’s likely you’ll survive. The five-year survival rate for most men diagnosed with local or regional forms of the disease is almost 100%. That being said, however, treatment for the disease is often rife with side effects. Surgery can lead to urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, while hormone therapy can cause loss of muscle mass and osteoporosis. Furthermore, it’s widely known that a diagnosis of cancer can lead to depression and anxiety.
However, there is a natural remedy that can at least help make your experience with prostate cancer a little bit easier: exercise. According to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, exercise can not only help placate the psychological side effects of prostate cancer, but also those associated with its treatment. Kegel exercises, when done both before and after prostate cancer-related surgery, can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, thereby improving incontinence. And strength training can help prevent the potential osteoporosis and loss of muscle that’s often associated with hormone therapy. It’s important, though, to make sure you talk through and plan your exercise routine with your doctors.
As mentioned before, kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are located just under your prostate, extending from your tailbone above your anus to your pubic bone in the front of your groin. These muscles not only function as a valve leading to your bladder, but also support your bladder, rectum, and prostate. Some weakness in these muscles is unavoidable with prostate surgery because of how close they are to the prostate, but you can minimize this side effect by beginning kegel exercises before undergoing surgery, thereby minimizing your risk for incontinence as well. Strength training can help build up your muscle mass and resting metabolic rate (RMR)–or how quickly you burn calories when you’re at rest. It also helps you maintain strong bones and prevents falls by improving your balance.
Another type of exercise that can be beneficial is aerobic exercise, which includes hiking, swimming, brisk walking, and the like. This type of workout burns calories and also increases your RMR. Furthermore, aerobic workouts also greatly help boost our natural levels of antioxidants and can knock out inflammatory molecules, including those that can contribute to cancer.
A licensed physical therapist or trainer can help you learn how to properly do kegels and strength train. In addition, some studies have shown that regular exercise can slightly lower your risk of prostate cancer, and more vigorous physical activity can help even more–especially when it comes to one’s risk of advanced forms of the disease.