Working out heightens sexual function in men with prostate cancer

Jairia Dela Cruz
29 Aug 2023
Working out heightens sexual function in men with prostate cancer

Prostate cancer treatment upends sexual function in men, but the good news is that supervised resistance and aerobic workout can counter these sexual side effects, according to a study presented at ASCO Breakthrough 2023.

Performing a combination of resistance and aerobic exercises over 6 months yielded significant improvements in erectile function and sexual satisfaction in men receiving treatments for prostate cancer, reported lead study author Dr Daniel Galvao of the Exercise Medicine Research Institute at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) erectile function scores increased by 5.1 points with exercise as opposed to only 1.0 point with usual care (p=0.010), while IIEF intercourse satisfaction scores increased by 2.2 and 0.2 points (p=0.026), respectively. [ASCO Breakthrough 2023, abstract 71]

Meanwhile, the addition of self-managed psychosexual therapy to the exercise regimen offered no further improvements.

Another noteworthy finding, according to Galvao, was that the combination exercise prevented gains in fat mass (p=0.028), while improving physical function as well as upper and lower body muscle strength.

“Sexual dysfunction is a common, distressing, and persistent side effect of prostate cancer treatment. Nearly half of patients with prostate cancer report having unmet sexual healthcare needs, highlighting the lack of current healthcare services to adequately address the demand for management of sexual dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment,” Galvao said.

“Our study shows that these patients can immediately benefit from supervised exercise interventions to improve their sexual health and that exercise should be considered as an integral part of treatment for prostate cancer,” he added.

For the study, Galvao and colleagues enrolled 112 men with prostate cancer previously or who were currently undergoing treatment and concerned about their sexual health. These men were randomly assigned to undergo the exercise intervention (n=39, mean age 66.5 years, mean body mass index [BMI] 28.4 kg/m2, 77 percent married), exercise plus psychosexual therapy (n=36, mean age 64.6 years, mean BMI 27.6 kg/m2, 72 percent married), or usual care (n=39, mean age 67.8 years, mean BMI 29.0 kg/m2, 76 percent married).

The exercise intervention was carried out 3 days per week at university-affiliated exercise clinics, while psychosexual therapy consisted of a brief self-management intervention that addressed psychological and sexual wellbeing.

Galvao called for further research to establish the long-term outcomes of exercise on sexual health in men with prostate cancer.

Dr Peter Paul Yu, physician-in-chief of the Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute in Hartford, Connecticut, US, and who was not involved in the study commented about Galvao and colleagues’ work: “Exercise has previously been shown to improve some side effects of prostate cancer treatment. [The current] data extend the benefits of exercise for patients with prostate cancer to also include sexual dysfunction, furthering the importance of physical activity for these patients.”

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