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Combat Prostate Cancer with Exercise

Older gentleman riding a bike through a wooded trail.

Exercise can help you look buff, trim your waistline and boost heart health, but research suggests that physical activity may offer an additional benefit: better odds against prostate cancer — one of the most common malignancies in men.

Urologist Michael Johnson, M.D., explains the connection between prostate cancer and exercise, and offers tips for getting started with a new workout routine.

The Impact of Physical Activity and Obesity on Prostate Cancer

Several studies suggest that men who take part in regular physical activity are less likely to develop prostate cancer or die from the disease. But why?

“Most likely, it’s not just the exercise that counts — it’s the subsequent weight loss that also makes a difference,” explains Dr. Johnson. “Studies have linked obesity with particularly aggressive forms of prostate cancer, and separate research has also connected weight gain with an increased risk of recurrence in men who have already been treated.”

Additionally, obesity may also interfere with screening tools for prostate cancer, such as PSA tests or digital rectal exams, making it harder to catch the disease early, says Dr. Johnson.

Regardless of how obesity affects prostate cancer, it pays to stay fit.

Before You Get Started

If you’ve decided to start an exercise plan, check in with your doctor first. “Every man is different and, as a result, routines and goals should vary based on your current health,” points out Dr. Johnson. “Your primary care provider can help you set realistic goals, refer you to an exercise specialist, and build a team of experts who can support you in maintaining both prostate and overall health.”

To reap the benefits of exercise, you should start slow and make a commitment. “It’s much better to keep a consistent routine than to burn yourself out with a high-intensity schedule and quit,” says Dr. Johnson. For a good balance, “find an activity that you enjoy doing,” he suggests.

The Bigger Picture

Strive to boost other aspects of your health along the way: “Focus on exercises that improve cardiovascular health and maintain a healthy weight,” advises Dr. Johnson. “That way, you can also protect yourself from heart disease, another deadly condition men need to be mindful of.”

Don’t Forget About Prostate Cancer Screening

Continue to discuss screening with your doctor. No matter how fit, no man can eliminate his risk: “Marathon runners are not immune from prostate cancer,” says Dr. Johnson.

Several screenings options are available. Together, you and your primary care physician or urologist can determine which is right for you.

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