Making changes for a healthier lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle can improve side effects and even success of prostate cancer treatment. Learn about different types of exercise and healthy food choices.

Staying on top of exercising and healthy eating may not be easy, but it’s important throughout the prostate cancer journey. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have had treatment, a healthy lifestyle or a prostate cancer diet can have an incredible impact on your quality of life.

    Keeping physically active, exercising, and eating well can:

  • Give you more stamina.

  • Help you feel energized.

  • Improve treatment side effects.

  • In some cases, increase the success of your treatment.

We’ve looked at what helps (and what doesn’t) when it comes to prostate cancer diet and exercise and how they could affect your health. Exercising and making healthy food choices are two great ways to help keep prostate cancer in check. Being active, combined with eating fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods can really make a difference.

Eating well: Managing your diet during prostate cancer

Eating well during and after prostate cancer treatment can improve your overall health, boost your recovery, and help minimize treatment side effects. A balanced approach to eating and drinking not only slashes the odds of other illnesses (think heart disease, other cancers, diabetes, and more) but makes it easier to manage your weight. And the clincher—maintaining a healthy weight has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer returning for some men.

While there are a lot of tasty and convenient foods out there, research shows that some foods can help people with prostate cancer, and other foods are best avoided. Try and eat more vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds—known as a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Limit the amount of processed foods and consider eating less red meat. Choose low fat milk and dairy products.

To help you keep prostate cancer in check, we’ve put together a handy list of foods to choose and foods to lose.

Healthy foods to include in your prostate cancer diet

    Here are some suggestions:

  • Nuts (like walnuts, almonds, and cashews)

  • Peanuts

  • Peanut butter

  • Other nut butters

    How much should you have?

  • Aim for 1 or more servings per day.

  • ¼ cup or small handful of nuts = 1 serving.

  • 2 tablespoons of nut butter = 1 serving.

    Try this:

  • Eat them raw or roasted without oil or salt.

  • Keep a handful of nuts in a snack bag or to-go cup.

  • Eat nut butters alone or with your favorite fruits.

    Here are some suggestions:

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, chard (silverbeet), or bok choy

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Cabbage

    How much should you have?

  • Aim for at least 3 servings per day.

  • ½ cup or a handful, cooked = 1 serving.

    Try this:

  • Steam, roast or stir fry them.

  • Eat them raw (just increase the serving size to 1 cup).

    Here are some suggestions:

  • Stewed tomatoes

  • Tomato paste

  • Tomato soup

  • Tomato-based pasta or casserole sauce

    How much should you have?

  • Aim for 2 or more servings per week.

  • 1/2 cup = 1 serving.

    Try this:

  • Add them to a casserole, soup, or pasta.

    Choose fish high in ‘omega-3 fatty acids’. Here are some suggestions:

  • Albacore tuna

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Mackerel

  • Anchovies

  • Rainbow trout

  • Black cod

    How much should you have?

  • Aim for 2 or more servings per week.

  • 3-5 oz (100g) cooked fish or a fish fillet the size of your whole hand = 1 serving.

    Try this:

  • Steam, microwave, bake or grill fish fillets.

  • Poach them in fish stock or seasoned water.

  • Add tinned fish to a salad.

    Here are some suggestions:

  • Olive oil

  • Canola oil

  • Sunflower oil

  • Rice bran oil

  • Avocado oil

  • Nut oils

    How much should you have?

  • Aim for 1 or more servings per day.

  • 1 serving = 1 tablespoon.

    Try this:

  • Add the oil to your skillet while cooking.

  • Use as part of a salad dressing.

Foods to eat less often (or choose a healthier option)

If red meat and processed meat are part of your usual diet, eat them less often and in smaller portions.

  • Limit red meat to no more than 2 servings a week.

  • Limit processed meat to no more than 1 serving a week.

  • A serving is 100g (cooked) or about the size of your palm.

  • Processed meat includes bacon, ham, salami, sausage, and lunch meats.

    Avoid or limit other processed foods like:

  • White bread and white rice.

  • Candy, cookies, cakes, and pies.

  • Sugary drinks like pop, juice, and sweetened beverages.

    Choose healthier options like:

  • Cuts of poultry—chicken or turkey—without the skin.

  • Low-fat milk and milk products rather than whole milk and full fat cheese.

Check with your care team or a dietitian before taking dietary supplements to make sure they are safe and really necessary for you.

If you think eating a healthier diet will be hard, don’t worry. You have a ton of delicious and affordable options. But if you have any questions, please reach out to your doctor, care team, or dietitian for help.

Exercising and moving more, even if you don’t feel up to it

Keeping physically active might be the last thing on your mind when you’re exhausted from dealing with cancer and treatment. But there are excellent reasons to make it one of the first. Exercising during treatment has been shown to reduce, prevent, and in some cases, reverse the side effects of hormone therapy, radiation therapy (radiotherapy), and chemotherapy.

All pretty good reasons to get on the move, right? Add to the mix the fact that exercise for prostate cancer can increase the effectiveness of treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and the case for physical activity is strong.

But there’s more. Men with prostate cancer who regularly exercise often benefit from better physical function, mental wellbeing, and overall quality of life.

Still not sold? In addition to all the other benefits, physical activity has been shown to help reduce the chance of prostate cancer returning, getting worse, or claiming your life. Exercise may not cure everything, but it can help you live better, for longer.

What are the different types of physical activity?

Everyday activities that have you moving your body, active recreational activities that you enjoy in your down time and exercise to improve your fitness—all these count as ‘physical activity’.

    Everyday activities can include:

  • Active travel like walking or cycling to work.

  • Housework like cleaning dishes, vacuuming, or doing the laundry.

  • Yard work like mowing the lawn, weeding, or pruning.

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

    Active recreation can include:

  • Golf

  • Tennis

  • Skiing

  • Surfing

  • Walking or cycling for fun

  • Dancing

    Exercise done to improve physical fitness can include:

  • Brisk walking or jogging (aerobic exercise).

  • Lifting weights (resistance exercise).

  • Stretching (flexibility exercise).

  • Yoga, Tai chi or Pilates.

What are some risks of not moving much (physically inactivity)

When you spend time sitting—like watching TV at home or using your computer at work—that’s being physically ‘inactive’. Inactivity really means the time you spend sitting. Too much sitting is different from too little exercise. Even if you exercise regularly, it’s important to think about spending less time being inactive. When we move, our body sends signals that keep our muscles and bones healthy. If we don’t move, the loss of muscle and bone that comes with ageing happens faster. This is the so-called ‘use it or lose it’ principle.

    Spending more time sitting increases your risk of:

  • Obesity (having too much body fat).

  • Diabetes.

  • Heart disease.

  • Other chronic health conditions (like high blood pressure).

Being inactive may affect prostate cancer

One large study found that for every extra hour of sitting, men were 16% more likely to have an elevated (higher) prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. The higher the PSA level, the higher the chance of getting prostate cancer.

Exercising for prostate cancer: Moving more has benefits

Our bodies were designed for movement. Studies show that when people stand up and move, they have:

  • Healthier cholesterol levels.

  • Healthier blood sugar levels.

Studies also show that people who are active for more than one hour a day have a much lower risk of dying early. That’s compared to people who exercise less than 30 minutes a week.

Experts say to aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, which is about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Aim for different levels of intensity, ranging from a brisk walk (moderate intensity) to something like swimming (vigorous intensity).This amount of activity reduces the risk of many chronic illnesses, including:

  • Other cancers.

  • Heart disease.

  • Diabetes.

How can I start being more physically active?

    To start, here are some tips for cutting back on the time you spend sitting:

  • Stand up while using your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Or set a timer and get up to move or stretch for a few minutes every 30 minutes.

  • Move around when talking on the phone.

  • March in place, repeatedly stand up and sit down, or walk in a circle during commercials or while watching TV.

  • Fidget—people who fidget (like tapping your foot or bouncing your leg while sitting) are more likely to maintain a normal weight than people who stay very still.

    When you're ready, try working more activity into your life:

  • Go for a 10-minute walk. Increase your time by one minute every week or two. Continue adding minutes until you work your way up to 30 minutes a day. If you don't have that much time, try walking a little faster for one minute at a time. Then return to your regular pace, switching between speeds for the rest of the time that you have.

  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator if you're able.

  • Avoid using tools that limit your need to move. Use a push mower to mow the lawn. Use a rake to rake the leaves.

  • Walk to the shops instead of driving. If you do drive, park further away to get in a few more steps.

  • Plan recreational activities with family, friends, or neighbors, like a friendly game of soccer or football.

  • If you golf, walk and push or carry your clubs instead of using a cart.