University of Calgary

Researchers turn to yoga exercises to help men recovering from prostate cancer

UToday HomeJuly 17, 2013

University of Calgary PhD student Lisa Daroux-Cole, from the Faculty of Kinesiology, leads an exercise/yoga class for men recovering from prostate cancer. Photo by Riley BrandtUniversity of Calgary PhD student Lisa Daroux-Cole, from the Faculty of Kinesiology, leads an exercise/yoga class for men recovering from prostate cancer. Photo by Riley BrandtA new prostate cancer exercise program developed at the Faculty of Kinesiology is helping men regain their strength and flexibility using some methods that many older men have never tried before – like yoga.

The program, called Strength and Stretch, is partly based on a recent paper, "Examining a therapeutic yoga program for prostate cancer survivors," published in the June 12 edition of Integrative Cancer Therapies by Kinesiology researcher Nicole Culos-Reed and her former MSc student, Ashley Ross-Zahavich.

The yoga study is part of ongoing research by Culos-Reed’s lab that has shown that strength and flexibility training is crucial for men recovering from prostate cancer.

Following prostate surgery, men report fatigue and often lose lean muscle mass. For those with advanced prostate cancer who undergo androgen deprivation therapy, the benefits of exercise and resistance training, in particular, are well documented.

“Having a class where men recovering from prostate cancer can maintain their lean muscle mass is really key in fighting fatigue,” explains Culos-Reed. “From a physiological point of view, when you have muscle wasting you want to sit and you don’t want to do things that cause more fatigue. It creates a downward spiral where people are tired and therefore they don’t want to move and then they lose lean muscle mass.”

Participants value the class for its camaraderie as well as the physical health benefits. Photo by Riley Brandt  Participants value the class for its camaraderie as well as the physical health benefits. Photo by Riley Brandt The Strength and Stretch class, held at the Prostate Cancer Centre at the Rockyview Hospital, helps men break out of the spiral. They use light weights, thera-bands and balance discs, so the exercise is adaptable and easy to do at home. The program gives them confidence and helps them feel better about themselves. “It’s all about keeping them moving and keeping them strong,” says Culos-Reed.

To make the yoga portion of the class more palatable, it was rebranded as stretching. “When I was at the centre,” says Culos-Reed, “one of the participants said, ‘It’s not really yoga guys – it’s not stand on your head ‘crazy yoga,’ it’s really just good stretching!’ ”

The class itself is held in a hastily converted boardroom located above the Rockyview parkade. You immediately get a sense of camaraderie and fun in the class, which one of the participants, John White, says is nearly as important as the class itself. “We’ve got eight guys here, all going through the same stuff – and we’ve all got the same problems! It’s the psychology of being able to talk to people, I mean, ‘How are you doing with your peeing!’ I mean, this is reality! To actually talk to guys who are in the same boat and may have come up with some ideas or experiences – that’s absolutely invaluable.”

The class is currently only available at the Calgary Prostate Cancer Centre, but Culos-Reed is eager to involve the community and spread the program across Calgary. To that end, the City of Calgary’s Department of Parks and Recreation will be partnering with her lab to train their fitness professionals. With the support of Prostate Cancer Canada, Culos-Reed and Ross-Zahavich are also working on disseminating the program nationally.

 






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