Sexual dysfunction can have a devastating impact on the mental wellbeing of prostate cancer survivors, but could exercise be the key to fulfillment?
A clinical trial led by Edith Cowan University (ECU) has revealed supervised exercise can improve the sexual health of men recovering from the disease.
Spanning four years, the study split more than 100 prostate cancer patients into three groups.
One group undertook a supervised resistance and aerobic exercise program; the second did the same exercise program, combined with psychosexual therapy; and the third received standard treatment with no exercise or therapy component.
While psychosexual therapy resulted in no improvements in erectile function or sex satisfaction, patients reported a big improvement in both following exercise.
Those who exercised saw erectile function increase by 5.1 points, compared to 1.0 in the usual care group. Intercourse satisfaction increased by 2.2 points with exercise, as opposed to 0.2 points with usual care.
Exercise also prevented an increase in body fat, improved physical function and improved upper and lower body muscle strength.
"This is just the latest piece of evidence showing exercise should be considered an integral part of treatment for prostate cancer," Professor Galvao said.
Professor Galvao said more research was needed to investigate how exercise impacts not only patients' sexual health, but also other symptoms and side effects.
He said the importance of "self-reliance", "physical strength" and "wellbeing" to men recovering from treatment are well established.
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia chief executive Anne Savage said the organisation hopes to see exercise routinely prescribed for men affected by the disease, as a result of findings.
"This study proves the power of exercise in helping restore sexual function while improving overall health, building on earlier research which has found that exercise can also help to reduce the risks of recurrence in men with prostate cancer," she said.
The study was carried out with the help of almost $1.8 million in funding, which has been delivered to the team by Cancer Council WA since 2007.
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