The Importance of Exercise for Men with Prostate Cancer

Eileen Lavis, Continence and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

 One in 9 men in Australia will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime with close to 3,300 men in Australia dying of prostate cancer – equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually. Around 20,000 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year.

 Treatment for Prostate Cancer varies with options including: prostate 1

  • Active surveillance
  • Radical prostatectomy
  • External Beam Radiation Therapy
  • Brachytherapy
  • Androgen Deprivation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

With the National Physical Activity Guidelines in Australia recommending individuals should partake in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most or all days it can sometimes be difficult to know if you should participate in exercise during and after treatment for Prostate Cancer.

 A study on Physical Activity and Survival after Prostate Cancer which included 2705 men with non metastatic Prostate cancer from 1990-2008 has shown that:

  • Men with greater than or equal to 3 hours of vigorous activity per week had 49% lower risk of all cause mortality.
  • Men with greater than or equal to 3 hours of vigorous activity per week had 61% lower risk of Prostate cancer death.

 Other studies investigating the ability to combat the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy with resistance training have shown: 

  • Increased muscle strength-chest press 40.5%, seated row 41.9%, leg press 96.3%
  • Increased muscle endurance – leg press 167.1%, chest press 114.9%
  • Increased functional performance 7-27%
  • Increased muscle thickness
  • Increased balance.

 For some men there can be some hurdles to commencing an exercise programme such as incontinence after surgery or many months later after external beam radiation therapy. Pelvic floor exercises must be included in any strengthening programme for men suffering from incontinence.

  • Up to 34% of men who have prostate surgery report having incontinence 1 year later.
  • About 80% of those impacted by urinary incontinence can be cured or improved.

 Exercise is safe for those undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Exercise programmes should be individualised and monitored to increase the effectiveness and safety.

 Thus, it is highly recommended that men have a thorough assessment prior to commencing an exercise programme. Part of that assessment will determine what exercises are safe after answering some clearing questions and taking into account some safety considerations specific to the side effects of treatments for Prostate Cancer. Exercise also has to be achievable while taking into consideration the goals and needs of the man.

 For men wishing to commence an exercise programme during or after treatment for Prostate Cancer a thorough assessment and programme can be implemented by Eileen Lavis or Karen Burns, Continence and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapists.

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For an appointment please contact reception or phone 4975-1622.


  1. Prostate Cancer Foundation – website
  2. Kenfield S.A, Stampfer M.J., Giovannucci E., and Chan J.M. Physical Activity and Survival after Prostate Cancer Diagnosis in Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
  3. Hayes, S.C, Spence R.R, Galvao D.A, Newton R.U. Australian Association for Exercise and Sport Science position stand: Optimising cancer outcomes through exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in sport 12(2009) 428-434
  4. Schmitz K.H., Courneya K.S, Matthews C, Demark-Wahnefried W, Galvao D.A, Pinto, B.M, Irwin, M.L, Wolin K.Y, Segal, R.J, Lucia A, Schneider C.M, Von Gruenigen V.E, Schwartz A.L. American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors
  5. Kisner, C & Colby, L.A, Therapeutic Exercise. 5th Edition, Davis Plus.