Find out about being active after your diagnosis or treatment for prostate cancer.
How being active helps
Being active is safe and possible for many people with cancer. This is both during and after treatment. It can also help recovery by relieving some side effects.
Being active may also help men who have had prostate cancer to live longer. One study found that men who exercise live longer than those that don’t. The men who were active had a reduced risk of dying from prostate cancer, or dying due to other reasons. The men who took part in this research did either moderate or more vigorous activity.
The researchers suggest that a moderate amount of activity for at least 3 hours per week may reduce the risk of prostate cancer coming back.
We need more research to be sure that being physically active does help men to live longer.
What being active means
There are no specific UK exercise guidelines for men with prostate cancer. Doctors recommend that men should follow the Department of Health general activity guidelines.These recommend that all adults should aim for at least one of the following
- 2 ½ hours of moderate activity every week
- 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week
- a combination of both moderate and intensive
This can be spread over the week and split into 10 minute periods or longer, depending on what amount of activity you’re used to.
Speak to your doctor or physiotherapist if you have one. Ask about a level of activity that is safe and realistic for you.Moderate exercise includes activities such as brisk walking or pushing a lawn mower. During moderate exercise
- you should feel slightly breathless, but still be able to talk and finish a sentence
- your heart beat should increase
- you may break into a sweat
Vigorous exercise includes running or jogging, or energetic dancing.
Doing more vigorous activity means that you are breathing quite hard and fast. You will probably only be able to say a few words before stopping to take a breath.
The guidelines also advise that adults should do some sort of activity to improve muscle strength on at least 2 days of the week. This can involve working against a resistance, such as lifting heavy shopping. Or using your own body weight to exercise, such as stepping and jumping when dancing.
Before you start
Before you start any physical activity talk to your doctor or specialist nurse.What is safe for you to do will depend on
- your general level of fitness
- other medical conditions you have
- how recently you have had treatment
Your doctor or nurse may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist for a specific exercise programme.
The amount you should do depends on your level of fitness. If you have not been physically active, you need to build up gradually.
Being physically active doesn’t mean you have to join a gym. You can build it into your day, doing this can help you stay active.Start slowly if you have been inactive.
- Cut down on the time that you spend sitting down.
- Stand up regularly, do a job round the house, walk round your house or garden.
- At work, go and see a colleague at their desk instead of emailing them or take a longer route to the printer.
- Get off the bus 1 stop early and walking the rest of the journey.
- Walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift.
- Go for a walk with friends or join a local walking group
If you are able, you should try to build up to 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week. Remember, you can split the 30 minutes into three 10 minute sessions if you want to. Gentle swimming or walking is fine for just about everyone. Some people find exercise more enjoyable and easier to do if they do it with another person, or as part of a group.
Ask your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist if you
- are unsure what you should be doing
- aren’t used to exercising
- want to do more vigorous exercise
When to ask for advice
You may need to be cautious and ask for advice if you have other health conditions.
For example, if you have cancer affecting your bones. Cancer in the bones can weaken them and make you more at risk of a break or fracture, especially if you put too much strain on them. It’s still a good thing to do weight bearing exercises, like walking and dancing if you can. But before you start, ask your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist for a specific advice.
Water based exercise puts less stress on your bones so swimming or exercising in water is also something most people can do. This is because water supports your body weight.
In some areas there are exercise referral schemes where professionals can support you in making changes to your lifestyle.
Some areas also have Health Trainers or personal trainers who have had specific training in cancer. They can offer support and information about healthy eating, weight loss and psychological wellbeing.
Ask your GP or hospital doctor what support is available in your area.
Questions you may want to ask your doctor
- What exercise can I do safely?
- Can I see a physiotherapist to work out an exercise plan?
Voiceover: We all know keeping fit boosts your chance of living longer, but can it have impact even with a cancer diagnosis?
A Cancer Research UK funded study is recruiting men diagnosed with prostate cancer to see if exercise can keep their cancer in check.
Dave Curtis (PANTERA study participant): I was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer and my lifestyle was very sedentary. The very idea of a gym was repulsive to me. But actually now that I’m part of that fraternity I love it.
Dr Liam Bourke (PANTERA study Chief Investigator): In this trial we’re trying to work out if we can deliver aerobic exercise training as a novel primary therapy for men with localised prostate cancer.
When men are with us during supervised exercise sessions we track their heart rate using heart rate monitors and they also track their own heart rate when they’re doing sessions away from us independently.
We’re interested to see eventually whether exercise training has an impact on something called prostate specific antigen.
Voiceover: Prostate specific antigen or PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. PSA level which is measured in the blood can help show if prostate cancer is growing.
Dr Liam Bourke: It’s early days yet but the data that we do have suggests that exercise might actually be beneficial in terms of helping regulate the way that cancer cells grow and repair DNA.
Dave Curtis: Through doing this exercise my PSA level which had been going up sort of alarmingly for a while has suddenly come down again. I don’t know what it actually means to have a PSA level that is reducing on a regular basis but I know that it’s got to be a good thing.
Dr Liam Bourke: If we do find out that exercise training is beneficial in terms of helping to control prostate cancer progression in its first phases then it might be that fewer men actually progress and advance to a stage of cancer where they will have much more invasive treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy or even hormone therapy.
And the idea that exercise training might help control prostate cancer progression also comes with much fewer side effects something that’s really exciting for patients. Maybe something that the NHS can offer as a treatment if we find it’s beneficial further down the line.