Men who regularly exercise improving their cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal strength are very smart. But what they may not realize is how exercise is also protecting the health of a very important gland – their prostate.
The prostate gland found deep within a man’s pelvic region, is about the size and shape of a walnut situated in front of the rectum and below the bladder. For being such an inconspicuous and unimposing gland, the prostate can become has a tendency to “flare-up,” making its hidden presence known. From painful infections to inflammation to enlargement, the prostate gland almost always ends up affecting most men at some point in their lives.
That’s why one of the best ways to prevent prostate issues is with exercise to help avoid or treat various prostate-related ailments. Here are 4 different prostate problems in which physical activity is a primary driver of prostate health.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) refers to an enlarged prostate gland common as men get older. An enlarged prostate can cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms ranging from a weak urine stream to frequently making nighttime trips to the bathroom. One lifestyle habit that can help manage BPH is improving fitness. Men who engage in activities such as walking, swimming, or running, may have reduced risk or symptoms of developing BPH. A 2014 study found men who have less sedentary behaviors had a significantly lower risk of BPH than sedentary men. Another study by the Department of Epidemiology Harvard School of Public Health found that men who walked 2-3 hours each week had a 25% lower risk of developing BPH.
A lesser-known and less talked about a problem affecting up to one in six men during their life is called prostatitis. This inflammation of the prostate gland – anything word ending in “itis” means inflammation – annually causes more than two million men to seek help from their doctor with this painful condition. Symptoms may include burning or painful urination, trouble voiding, difficult or painful ejaculation, or pain in the area between the scrotum and rectum known as the perineum.
Men with this condition may want to use exercise as a means of seeking relief, according to a 2007 Italian randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Urology. Men who walked briskly three times a week when compared to men who did not exercise, reported less prostatitis pain, less anxiety, depression, and a better quality of life.
According to the American Cancer Society, other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer in American men. It is predicted that almost 192,000 men will be diagnosed with this disease and over 33,000 men will die from it.
Studies have found that men who get regular physical activity have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer but that increases in men who exercise vigorously. Also, men already diagnosed with prostate cancer, have a better survival rate with a modest amount of vigorous activity, about three times a week. In fact, in a study of more than 1,400 men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, men who walked briskly for at least three hours a week were 57% less likely to have their cancer progress than men who walked less often and less vigorously. Findings from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found men with localized prostate cancer engaging in vigorous activity at least three hours a week had a 61% lower chance of dying from the illness, compared to men engaged in less than one hour a week of vigorous activity.
Strengthening the pelvic floor
The pelvic floor muscles support various parts of a man’s urinary such as the bladder, rectum, and prostate. These muscles run from the pubic bone at the front of the groin to the tailbone at the back. Strong pelvic muscles help minimize muscle weakness, especially after prostate cancer surgery and also reduce the risk for male incontinence.
Strengthening the pelvic floor is best achieved by performing Kegel exercises. There are several ways for men to find their pelvic muscles. One way is to try to stop and start their urine stream while standing to pee. Do this three to five times. Or try to completely stop the urine flow and hold for a few seconds. Kegels can also be done at any time, anywhere. Simply tighten and hold the pelvic floor muscles for five seconds, then relax. That is considered one Kegel exercise. Plan to do 10 to 20 Kegel exercises three to four times a day.
Men, who have not exercised for some time, should talk to their doctor before beginning an exercise program. Healthcare providers can help recommend or develop an exercise routine based on a man’s health and fitness level.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board-certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.