Prostate Cancer Patients Find Support in Group Fitness Classes

January 15, 2015

Group exercise programs can improve the physical and mental well-being of prostate cancer patients, as well as providing emotional and social support.

Participating in supervised group exercise programs not only improves prostate cancer patients’ physical and mental well-being but also provides them with much-needed emotional and social support, according to the results of a recent study.

Researchers interviewed 12 prostate cancer patients participating in a structured, clinic-based group exercise program led by an exercise physiologist. In addition to psychological and physiological benefits, participants reported that having the support of a group of peers encouraged them to discuss shared experiences and maintain social connections. The findings were published in the January issue of Oncology Nursing Forum.

Participating in prostate cancer–specific exercise groups appears to break down men’s preconceived notions of health and wellness as feminine concerns, which often prevent them from seeking support, the authors said. Participants in the group classes felt comfortable sharing experiences in a casual, activity-based environment that they associated with masculine values, such as strength and independence.

“Exercise represents an intervention that uniquely fits with traditional masculine characteristics, and is also action-oriented and requires physical prowess,” the authors wrote. “The unique environment of a supervised exercise program provides considerable improvements in health and well-being, as well as extensive psychosocial support, in a manner that is highly acceptable to men with prostate cancer.”

Humor was a key element in fostering a supportive environment, as men felt more comfortable disclosing difficult information or concerns through the use of jokes and lighthearted banter, the authors said. Participants also reported that the exercise physiologist contributed to the overall group dynamic by showing a genuine interest in participants’ progress, engaging in general conversations, and being approachable and friendly.

“Collectively, these elements led to the development of valued social connections that extended beyond the supervised exercise sessions to interactions outside of the program,” the authors said. “Men noted the development of strong camaraderie with other participants, which motivated participants’ continued engagement with the program.”

The findings suggest that group exercise programs should be incorporated into supportive care services for prostate cancer patients, the authors noted. Nurses and other healthcare professionals should recommend that patients engage in aerobic and resistance exercises, and refer patients to prostate cancer–specific group programs supervised by qualified physiologists.

“The significant physical and mental health improvements brought about through a supervised exercise program enhance men’s feelings of competence, independence, and control, which provide strong motivation for continued exercise participation,” the authors wrote. “Therefore, the incorporation of these elements into a supervised exercise program appears to provide a supportive care service specifically tailored to men with prostate cancer that promotes long-term participation.”