Quality of life can deteriorate for men due to the effects of prostate cancer and its treatment. But a new study shows that engaging in a regular walking regimen can improve well-being.
The finding didn’t come as a surprise to one expert.
“I am a big believer in exercise for overall wellness, and as this study has pointed out, for the management of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Ash Tewari, chair of the department of urology at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
Tewari said his credo is ” ‘three miles a day keeps the doctor away,’ and that is why I’ve created a ‘Prostate Bootcamp’ in my practice, which involves walking three miles per day.”
In the new study, a team led by Siobhan Phillips of Northwestern University in Chicago tracked outcomes for more than 51,000 early stage prostate cancer survivors in the United States, who completed a survey about their quality of life.
Many of the men reported having urinary and bowel problems, erectile dysfunction and other sexual function problems, as well as weight gain, fatigue and depression.
The men also provided information about the average amount of time per week they spent walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming and playing sports.
According to the study, three hours of “casual” walking per week boosted the men’s health-related quality of life by reducing fatigue, depression and weight issues. Walking at a faster pace for 90 minutes a week provided similar benefits, the team found.
The findings were published April 16 in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice.
“This study shows that you don’t have to engage in high-impact, vigorous activities to improve your quality of life after a prostate cancer diagnosis,” Phillips, a kinesiologist and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern, said in a university news release.
“Since many prostate cancer survivors might find vigorous activities hard to stick with, the good news is that simply focusing on walking more may be enough to make them feel better,” she added.
Tewari agreed. “Exercise, before and after prostate cancer treatment has the potential to speed recovery, mitigate complications, allow for optimal handling of medication, and impact long-term survival,” he said. “In my practice, we have also seen facilitation of earlier recovery of sexual function.”
Dr. Manish Vira directs the fellowship program in urologic oncology at The Arthur Smith Institute for Urology in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He said the new study “highlights the value of cancer survivorship programs which focus on increasing physical activity and exercise.”
So, he added, “it is important to emphasize to patients that even modest, low-impact activity can have very positive effects not only on overall health but also on patients’ perception of their quality of life.”
Exercise has many other positive effects, Phillips noted.
“Cancer survivors have a higher risk of other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease,” she said. “Walking may also potentially increase survival and impact their quality of life by preventing the onset of those other conditions.”