As many as 50 percent of men will suffer from an enlarged prostate by age 60, and 90 percent of men will report symptoms by age 85, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Having a prostate problem may make you feel less like exercising, and you may be concerned about the effects of exercise on your condition. But exercise is not only beneficial for overall health, it can also help treat prostate-related symptoms.
The prostate is a gland that produces seminal fluid to carry sperm during ejaculation and is normally the size of a walnut. As men age, the gland gradually enlarges, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or benign prostatic hypertrophy. The enlarged prostate presses on the urethra and leads to bladder and urination problems and sometimes pain. Although the exact cause isn’t known, it isn’t life-threatening, and self-treatment through lifestyle modifications -- like adding exercise -- may be all that is required.
Scientists followed more than 28,000 male long-distance runners from 1992 to 2002 to determine the effects of running on prostate health. The results, published in October 2008 in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," found that men who ran a faster pace than 4.5 meters per second had a 32 percent decreased risk of an enlarged prostate than men who ran less than 3 meters per second. Another study published in 2007 in "The Journal of Urology" found that three to five hours of vigorous aerobic exercise weekly helps keep prostate enlargement in check, reduces pain and improves the overall quality of life in patients with prostate disease.
Kegel exercises are a non-aerobic activity that may help urinary and incontinence problems often associated with an enlarged prostate. They involve tightening and clenching specific pelvic muscles, known as the external sphincter muscles, strengthening them so they are better able to hold in urine. Kegel exercises should be performed regularly throughout the day, and you can do them anywhere, while either sitting or standing.
Some exercises put pressure on the pelvic area and may cause pain from the enlarged prostate. These usually involve prolonged sitting, such as bicycling, rowing or horseback riding, and may need to be avoided. Check with your health-care provider or a physical therapist to help design an exercise program that is suitable for your particular situation.
- MedlinePlus: Enlarged Prostate
- University of Pittsburg Cancer Institute: Urinary Incontinence
- “Journal of Urology”; Physical Activity of Men with Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome; G. Giubilei, et al.; January 2007
- Male Health Center: Enlarged Prostate
- “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”; Effects of Running Distance and Performance on Incident Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia; P.T. Williams; October 2008