Walking Can Help Reduce Prostate Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Mild exercise found to improve fatigue and depression.

Mild exercise found to improve fatigue and depression.

A minimal amount of physical activity may be enough to improve the harmful side effects of treatment for prostate cancer.

In a study published April 16, 2015 in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice, researchers found that walking at an easy pace for just 3 hours per week can improve the quality of life in prostate cancer patients.

"Non-vigorous walking for three hours per week seems to improve the fatigue, depression and body weight issues that affect many men post-treatment," lead author Siobhan Phillips, said in a press release. "If you walk even more briskly, for only 90 minutes a week, you could also see similar benefits in these areas."

The study was among the first to evaluate how different intensity and types of physical activity can impact health-related quality of life following prostate cancer treatment.

"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 said. "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."

The researchers analyzed self-reported data on 51,529 men since 1986 with a focus on prostate cancer survivors diagnosed with non-advanced disease prior to 2008. The men also responded to a health-related quality of life questionnaire.

Common quality of life symptoms include urinary and bowel problems, sexual function issues, fatigue, depression, and weight gain. Men reported the average time they spent each week walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming and playing sports. They also reported the intensity of their typical outdoor walking pace as either easy, average, brisk, or very brisk.

Following a control for pre-diagnosis physical activity and sedentary time, the researchers found a higher duration of total, non-vigorous, and walking activity, especially brisk walking, was associated with improved hormone functioning, fatigue, depression, and body weight. Physical activity was not found to improve bowel, urinary, or sexual functioning.

As a result, patients able to walk should be urged to begin an easy walking routine or to engage in other non-vigorous activities soon after a prostate cancer diagnosis. The benefits of activity may help to improve overall health and symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and body weight.

"Cancer survivors have a higher risk of other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease," Phillips said. "Walking may also potentially increase survival and impact their quality of life by preventing the onset of those other conditions."