Becoming fitter can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35%, research shows

Men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer by as much as 35% by jogging, cycling or swimming more, a study suggests.

Increasing cardiorespiratory fitness by just 3% over the course of a year was associated with a much lower chance of developing the disease. The findings prompted the researchers to encourage men to increase their fitness levels to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

“The more intense the activity, the lower the duration and frequency required,” says study co-author Dr Kate Bolam, from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm. “Additionally, involving more muscles will provide a greater aerobic challenge to the cardiovascular system.

“Therefore, activities that involve the lower body… brisk walking or jogging, hiking, activities where you can barely carry on a conversation while you are doing it… or preferably also involving arms and legs, are recommended for greater effect.

“The trick is to regularly challenge your cardiovascular system so that it better meets the demands placed on it. It could even be line dancing, if that gets your heart rate up and you’re having fun.”

The study did not explain how someone could achieve a 3% increase in cardiorespiratory fitness. But Bolam said her advice would be to “think about activities that you think are fun and that get your heart rate up that you could add to your weekly routine”.

The Swedish study analyzed data on the physical activity levels, height and body mass index (BMI) of 57,652 men, along with information on lifestyle and perceived health, and the results of at least two cardiorespiratory fitness tests.

Annual measurements of cardiorespiratory fitness were expressed in the amount of oxygen the body uses when training as hard as possible. Depending on this, the men were divided into groups, which increased by 3% each year, remained stable or decreased by 3%.

During an average follow-up period of seven years, researchers found that 592 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those whose condition had improved by 3% annually were 35% less likely to develop cancer compared to those whose condition had declined.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Simon Grieveson, assistant research director at Prostate Cancer UK, who was not involved in the study, said: “This is an interesting study that adds to previous studies showing possible links between exercise and a lower chance of developing prostate cancer.

“Staying fit regularly and eating a balanced diet is good for any man’s overall health and wellbeing. However, we do not know definitively whether physical activity can lower a man’s risk of developing or dying from prostate cancer.”

Matt Lambert, health information and promotion manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “It is well known that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are important for our health and longevity, but it can also be protective against certain diseases.

“This insightful study adds to the evidence base on how risk factors such as fitness may play a role in reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men.”