Impact of Exercise on Prostate Cancer Therapy Side Effects

Androgen deprivation therapy side effects improved somewhat with exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Male hormones called androgens help prostate cancer develop, grow and spread. That’s why the disease is often treated with medications that block androgen activity.

This treatment known as androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT) has some very unpleasant side effects, and researchers recently sought to learn if exercise could help relieve these symptoms.

After reviewing the latest research, these researchers found that exercise did lessen some ADT side effects, but not all.

The researchers urged that more research be conducted to develop specific evidence-based exercise guidelines for prostate cancer survivors being treated with androgen-deprivation therapy.

"Learn about the potential side effects of all medications you take."

Jason R. Gardner and colleagues at Deakin University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia analyzed findings from studies that evaluated the impact of exercise on ADT-related side effects.

In this study's background, the authors explained that about half of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer are treated with ADT within 12 months of diagnosis. The goal of this treatment is to lower the levels of androgens, including testosterone, in the man’s body or to prevent the hormones from reaching the cancer cells.

There are a number of different types of ADT, which can be delivered in both injectable and pill form.

Most of these medications can potentially lead to significant side effects, which range from decreasing bone mineral density, increasing fat while decreasing lean body mass and reducing muscle strength, to name a few.

This review's research team identified and reviewed 10 studies. Participants in these studies ranged in age from 63 to 72 years. Most of the studies involved three weekly exercise sessions.

Four of the studies looked at the effectiveness of both aerobic and resistant training, four studies evaluated resistance training only, and two studies analyzed groups of men who participated in one or the other, with or without a control group of men who did not exercise.

These studies looked at how exercise influenced strength, bone health, aerobic fitness, lean body mass, fatigue and the ability to complete functional tasks.

This literature review concluded that exercise has helped to alleviate a number of treatment-related side effects.

“Exercise training demonstrated benefits in muscular strength, cardiorespiratory [aerobic] fitness, functional task performance, lean body mass, and fatigue, with inconsistent effects observed for adiposity [amount of fat tissue]," Gardner and colleagues wrote.

"The impact of exercise on bone health, cardiometabolic risk markers [risk factors for heart disease and diabetes], and quality of life are currently unclear,” they wrote.

James Crowell, owner and head trainer of Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told dailyRx News, "I believe that all people who are capable of exercising should be exercising consistently. The benefits are tangible. Studies continue to show positive medical effects for those who consistently incorporate exercise into their daily routine.

“I don't like to generalize how exercise should be done because every client is in a different health situation. I like a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular (aerobic) training to help clients better their health metrics, and I get specific per my clients depending on what they need the most whether it be weight loss, strength gain, or general balance and flexibility,” Crowell said.

He continued, “I have seen countless examples of people who come into the gym in an unhealthy state, and by merely adding consistent exercise, their health gets dramatically better as seen in their normal medical tests such as blood pressure, body fat and resting heart rate.”

Gardner and team concluded, “Ongoing research of high methodologic quality is required to consolidate and expand on current knowledge and to allow the development of specific evidence-based exercise prescription recommendations.”

This study was published December 16 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Funding information was not provided. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
December 20, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013