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Thu, 12 Mar 2020

Exercise works for those beginning cancer treatment

Exercise equipment
Image: Victor Freitas

A James Cook University researcher says scientists have found that exercise can be beneficial to patients as they begin treatment for prostate cancer.

Associate Professor Anthony Leicht was part of an international group led by Professor John Saxton from Northumbria University and the University of East Anglia that studied how exercise might help prostate cancer sufferers who were about to start Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT).

The initial treatment for sufferers involves using drugs or surgery to reduce the level of androgen hormones, which prostate cancer cells usually require to multiply.

“The problem is ADT has several side-effects, including increased body fat, decreased cardiopulmonary fitness and increased fatigue. These can increase the risk of a cardiovascular event and reduce health-related quality of life,” said Dr Leicht.

The research team tested 50 people to see if supervised exercise sessions could help reduce the side-effects of ADT and how long any benefits lasted after the exercise supervision was withdrawn.

“The exercise group completed three months of supervised aerobic and resistance exercise training involving two sessions a week for 60 minutes, followed by three months of self-directed exercise,” said Dr Leicht.

The team found the exercise programs produced sustained benefits in patients’ cardiovascular risk profile and quality of life. Differences in cardiopulmonary fitness and fatigue, however, did not continue after the period of supervised exercise ended.

“What was important, and different from most other studies, was that the patients started the exercise program before the ADT treatment began. Other studies have examined patients already undergoing treatment,” Dr Leicht said.

“Secondly, we followed up during the period of self-directed exercise and found some of the benefits were ongoing.”

Sustaining the exercise program was important because ADT side-effects continue to develop after the first three months of treatment.

“In older people we often see reductions in strength and physical function just three months after halting supervised exercise.  They may stop exercising because of cost or other reasons.

“A more pragmatic approach such as home-based exercise or a shorter period of supervision with follow-on remote support could help get around these restrictions and provide measurable benefits to prostate cancer sufferers.”

Link to paper here.


Associate Professor Anthony Leicht
T: (07) 4781 4576
E: Anthony.leicht@jcu.edu.au