Group Exercise, Better Diet Limit Side Effects of Hormone Therapy, Study Shows

Group Exercise, Better Diet Limit Side Effects of Hormone Therapy, Study Shows

Moderate exercise in a group setting and a healthier diet improved mobility and muscle strength, and reduced fat mass of prostate cancer patients on hormone therapy, an Ohio State University study found.

The study, “Effects of a Group-Mediated Exercise and Dietary Intervention in the Treatment of Prostate Cancer Patients Undergoing Androgen Deprivation Therapy: Results From the IDEA-P Trial,” appeared in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Androgen deprivation therapy has been increasingly used in prostate cancer patients. However, suppressing male hormones may lead to reduced strength and muscle mass. It also may cause patients to gain fat, increasing the risk of metabolic disorder, which precedes heart disease and diabetes.

“We found that a comprehensive exercise and diet program in a group setting can make a difference for prostate cancer patients, and the difference was greater than I expected in a short period of time,” Brian Focht, PhD, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of kinesiology at OSU, said in a press release.

Scientists tested the effects of exercise in a group setting and a diet program in 32 prostate cancer patients, who exercised less than one hour a week in the six months prior to the study.

Half the patients entered a 12-week personalized program with group exercise and nutrition counseling, while the other half received basic information on their diagnosis, and were given the opportunity for exercise education at the end of the study.

Evaluations were conducted when men entered the study, and then at two and three months after the program.

Three months after intervention, exercise and diet patients exhibited improvements in mobility, measured by walking and stair-climbing, and muscle strength, measured by pounds lifted on leg extension and chest press exercises, as well as decreases in fat mass. These benefits were in clear contrast to the data from the other group, which showed opposite results.

Men in the exercise and nutrition group lost approximately 4.4 pounds, including 4 pounds of fat. Their body fat percentage decreased by more than 2%. In contrast, the control group gained a third of a pound and nearly 2 pounds of fat mass, while their body fat increased by 1.8%.

The benefits of exercise to prostate cancer patients had been shown in previous studies, but none had employed a group approach, Focht said.

“We think the group approach is important, because it creates social support for a group of men who have experienced shared challenges, and that can increase the chances of long-term behavior change,” he said. “We wondered if prostate cancer patients would view this approach as feasible and acceptable, and we heard a resounding ‘yes.’ They fully embraced it.”

Men in the intervention group also had increased mobility, while the control group experienced decreases. Muscle strength also improved by nearly 20 pounds. Participants in the control group had little change in muscular strength after three months.

Exercise regimens were personalized and had augmented intensity through the three-month IDEA-P trial (NCT02050906). They consisted of one-hour sessions twice a week with supervision, weight-bearing exercises, and aerobic exercises on a stationary bike, treadmill, or elliptical trainer.

Patients were also encouraged to exercise on their own. No serious medical problems or injuries were observed due to the exercise program.

Nutrition counseling consisted of small group sessions after exercise and phone calls with a registered dietitian. Patients were encouraged to adopt a plant-based diet and follow other federal guidelines or recommendations from medical groups such as the American Cancer Society.

“In summary, findings from the IDEA-P trial provide evidence of the feasibility, safety, and preliminary efficacy of implementing [an exercise+diet] intervention among prostate cancer patients undergoing androgen-deprivation therapy,” the investigators wrote in the study.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each man needs to work within his own limits, and each has different needs nutritionally,” Focht said. He now plans to test this approach in a study of about 200 prostate cancer patients.

“There’s an increasingly recognized focus on the holistic treatment of cancer patients. We not only want to add years to life, but we want to add life to their years,” he said.