Exercising safely with a partner during and after prostate cancer

Two men with a surfboard walking towards beach

Exercising, physical activity, and moving your body is good for your health.
How is exercise different from simply moving around? Exercise is a planned, structured, and specific movement that improves your fitness. For example, some people jog for exercise. This means they jog a few times a week at a challenging pace. This makes their heart, lungs, and muscles stronger.

    Exercise to manage prostate cancer can be done:

  • At a gym, a community center, at home, or outdoors.

  • With a group of friends or alone.

  • With or without special equipment.

Here we’ll talk more about the different types of exercise, how to do them, and how they help your overall health.

What are the main types of exercise for prostate cancer?

Aerobic exercise for prostate cancer

Aerobic exercise is movement that uses large muscle groups in a pattern. It should be carried on for at least 10 minutes at a time and gets the heart and lungs to work harder than when you're resting.

    Examples of aerobic exercise include activities like:

  • Walking.

  • Running.

  • Riding a bicycle.

  • Dancing.

  • Swimming.

  • Hiking.

  • Working out on the elliptical or stair climbing machine at the gym.

Aerobic exercise can help with managing your weight, improving heart and lung health, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure at healthier levels. All this can help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Regular exercise also improves mood (less anxiety and depression).

    Benefits of aerobic exercise for men with prostate cancer include:

  • Less weight gain for men on hormone therapy.

  • Lower fatigue or extreme tiredness in men going through radiation therapy (radiotherapy) or on hormone therapy.

  • Decreased blood pressure in men with (or at risk of) heart disease from hormone therapy.

  • Better quality of life across all stages of cancer and all types of treatment.

Regular aerobic exercise may also decrease the risk of dying from prostate cancer.

How can you get started?

    Add aerobic exercise to your routine with these 3 steps:

  • Begin with 10-minutes, 2 to 3 days per week, for 3 to 4 weeks.

  • After 3 or 4 weeks, add 1 to 2 minutes to your activity every week.

  • Continue adding minutes until you are up to 30 minutes, 3 days per week.

Resistance exercise

Resistance exercise means moving your muscles against some type of weight. It can be done using dumbbells and barbells, weight machines in a gym, elastic bands, or even your own body weight.

The goal of resistance exercise is to improve your muscle strength and your endurance. Resistance exercise helps avoid muscle and bone loss with age. It can also help lower body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol.

    Improving muscle strength and keeping your bones strong:

  • Makes day-to-day activities easier to do—such as lifting or moving heavy loads like furniture or getting yourself out of a chair.

  • Decreases the risk of falls and bone fractures.

    Improving endurance can help you:

  • Bring in several loads of shopping.

  • Dig in the garden.

    For men with prostate cancer, resistance exercise can:

  • Lower fatigue and feelings of tiredness.

  • Increase quality of life for men going through radiation treatment.

  • Improve sexual function.

For men on hormone therapy, resistance training can be helpful to ease the symptoms you’re experiencing. Hormone therapy can weaken bones and muscles, cause weight gain, and decrease heart health, but resistance training helps:

  • Slow bone loss.

  • Increase muscle size.

  • Stop gain of body fat.

  • Lower insulin levels in the blood.

  • Improve physical function and movement making cleaning, bathing, and getting dressed easier.

How can you get started?

    A simple way to add resistance exercise to your routine follows these 3 steps:

  • First, think of 3 exercises that use your body weight. For example, getting up from a chair without using your arms and sitting back down, raising your heels off the ground, and doing push-ups against a wall.

  • Do these 3 moves 3 days per week and start with 5 repetitions per exercise.

  • Add a repetition every week until you reach 15 repetitions.

    For a workout that uses weights, you can figure out the right amount of weight to lift when you find a weight that is:

  • Light enough that you can lift it the minimum number of repetitions.

  • Heavy enough that you can’t go beyond the maximum number of repetitions and keep good form.

Remember: as you get stronger, you may need to increase the weight you lift to stay in the right range of repetitions and get the most benefits.

To improve your muscle strength, lift heavier weights (using dumbbells, barbells or a weight machine) a few times, about 6 to 8 repetitions.

To improve your endurance, lift lighter weights many times (about 10 to 15 repetitions).

Flexibility Exercise

Flexibility exercise stretches a muscle or group of muscles by creating a slight pull on the muscle and tendons (where your muscle attaches to your bone). This helps increase your range of motion.

Stretching your muscles helps them stay loose and avoid getting stiff. This allows your joints (where two bones come together) to move more easily. Regular stretching makes you more flexible, and it's great for everyone, including older adults. You’ll have:

  • Improved movement, making day-to-day activities easier.

  • Steadier walking.

  • Less tension and stress.

  • Better sleep.

    You'll have:

  • Improved movement, making day-to-day activities easier.

  • Steadier walking.

  • Less tension and stress.

  • Better sleep.

    Examples of flexibility exercise include:

  • Stretching at home.

  • Yoga.

How can you get started?

Start by stretching for 15 minutes in the morning, 3 times a week. Stretch each of these muscle for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat 2 more times:

  • Shoulders

  • Back of arms

  • Chest

  • Hips

  • Thighs

  • Calves

  • Ankles

Other types of exercise to manage prostate cancer

There are many other forms of exercise that you may be interested in learning about to include as part of your list of exercises for prostate cancer. Examples include yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong. These other forms of exercise often include aerobic, resistance, and flexibility movements. Some people prefer these forms because they're done with music or put together in an interesting way. They often add elements like:

Yoga is a holistic program that improves mobility, mood, and well-being. Many types of yoga are safe and effective for older adults, like vinyasa and restorative yoga. Yoga usually involves focusing on:

  • Breathing.

  • Stretching.

  • Posture.

  • Meditation.

Tai Chi is a martial arts form that has been used for centuries. It improves focus and connects breathing and posture changes. Tai Chi consists of a series of flowing, controlled movements and breathing that are performed in order. It involves:

  • Moving slowly and smoothly from one posture to the next.

  • A focus on moving the body around and past its center of gravity.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care practice that combines:

  • Physical postures

  • Breathing techniques

  • Focused intention.

These types of exercise can be a good way to ease into regular activity. Or, you can add them to a program of aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises. Studies of these exercises show benefits for people with prostate cancer, including:

  • Improved energy and less fatigue.

  • Improved quality of life.

  • Better balance and function.

How can you get started?

First check with your doctor or care provider to understand what activities and exercises you can take part in.

Look online (on the internet) to find classes for these exercises in your local area.

To help with exercising for prostate cancer, talk with the exercise instructor to make sure the class is safe and a good fit for you. Let the instructor know about anything that might make exercise hard for you. A good instructor will listen and should be able to make changes if needed. Or they can point you to a program that’s better for you.

Exercising with a partner

Exercising with a partner (like a spouse, sibling, child, or friend) can be fun and can make your workout that much better. It is also a great way for friends and loved ones to feel like they can support you.

    Here are some of the ways a partner can boost your workouts:

  • Accountability. Planning to exercise with someone else makes both of you more likely to stick with it.

  • Safety. Having someone with you keeps you safe during an exercise session.

  • Motivation. Working out with a partner can help you have fun and stay safe while:

    - Pushing yourself a little harder.

    - Exercising longer.

    - Reaching a higher intensity.

How to spice up your exercise routine with a partner

Here are some ways you and your partner can work together and encourage each other during different types of exercise.

Aerobic exercise

Try new activities with your partner that will get your heart rate up. Consider dancing, hiking, biking, swimming, or any other activities you might enjoy together. Encourage each other to pick up the pace when it seems you can push yourselves harder. Rest or slow down when you need to.

Resistance exercise

Rest while your partner performs 1 set of strength exercises, then switch! While your partner exercises:

  • Check their form.

  • Count their repetitions.

  • Encourage them to do one more rep.

Flexibility exercise

Stretch together. Each partner can gently help the other stretch a little further. Go slow and steady to avoid reaching the point where a stretch is painful.

Exercising safely during prostate cancer treatment

Light to moderate exercise is safe for most people. While there is a slight risk of injury with any type of physical activity, the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks. Follow the tips below to keep safe.

Always check with your doctor or care team before you begin a new program of exercise for prostate cancer. They can tell you how to stay safe given your health status and monitor your health as you recover.

Exercise at a gym so you won’t be alone. This is especially important if you have a medical condition like:

  • Heart disease.

  • A history of stroke.

  • A neurological condition (a condition affecting your brain, spinal cord or nerves).

  • A history of falls.

    Train with another person, especially when starting an exercise program. This could be:

  • Your spouse or partner.

  • A son or daughter.

  • A sibling.

  • A friend.

Start with a light level of exercise if you are in active prostate cancer treatment. This is also important if you are new to exercise.

  1. First, slowly increase the amount of time that you exercise at a given level.

  2. When you reach your goal time, you can start to increase the intensity.

Think about working with a cancer exercise trainer, they can help you come up with prostate cancer exercise guidelines specifically tailored to you. Some trainers are certified to work with cancer survivors, so it may be something to consider if you:

  • Are in active cancer treatment.

  • Have a lot of other health concerns.

Ask your local gym for cancer exercise trainers in your area.

Exercise can be safe during and after prostate cancer treatment. and getting more planned exercise in your life adds even more benefits.