Exercise Programs For Prostate Cancer

Professor Rob Newton is the Associate Dean of Medical and Exercise Sciences and the Co-Director of the Exercise Medicine Research Institute, School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

Prostatepedia spoke to Dr. Newton about his exercise recommendations for men with prostate cancer.

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What specific exercise plans do you recommend for prostate cancer patients?

Dr. Newton: At the moment, we have a very generic recommendation from the American Cancer Society: complete 75 to 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise and two or more resistance training sessions per week. That’s the same recommendation that the American College of Sports Medicine gives for any healthy adult, whether he or she has cancer or not. That recommendation needs to be more tailored to the stage of prostate cancer and the treatments the patient is undergoing.

I’m writing a letter to the Journal of Clinical Oncology in response to a paper by a group in Perth that they published in the last edition. The paper recommends that the way forward with the management of cancer will be home-based exercise programs prescribed by physicians, and most likely, walking programs. This is a tragic step backward in terms of the management of cancer with exercise medicine. It’s ineffective.

Compliance in home-based programs is woeful. It’s the wrong medicine. Depending on the problem the patient is experiencing, walking may be the wrong medicine. It’s like giving antibiotics as contraception. This is not the direction in which oncology should go.

For men on active surveillance, we have two principal targets. First, we try to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. At this stage, the prostate cancer is not progressing that fast, so chances are the patients are going to die of something else.

If they’re overweight, obese, or their blood glucose is out of control, for example, metabolic syndrome will kill them long before their prostate cancer will. You’ve got to say, “Why are you worried about your prostate cancer? You won’t live long enough to get it.” If a man is overweight, physically inactive, or has a poor diet, then the focus should be on controlling that, not on the prostate cancer.

The other target for patients on active surveillance is to stimulate the mechanisms that might inhibit the tumor from developing further. We’re starting to get a good understanding of this. The key is to maintain or increase the amount of muscle in the patient’s body.

Muscle produces strong antitumor drugs. It’s natural, internal medicine, but it produces a range of substances that have an antitumor effect. We need to increase the size of the muscle and then activate that muscle regularly to get it to dispense these chemicals.

We’re unsure at the moment of what specific types of exercise drive the greatest quantity and which specific endogenous medicine will suppress tumor growth. At this stage, that’s why we recommend a combination of resistance exercise and aerobic exercise. That should help to slow the tumor progression.

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