Exercise helps counter anxiety caused by active surveillance

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In the newspapers

Many men with low-risk prostate cancer who follow active surveillance (wait-and-see approach) experience ongoing stress and anxiety about their condition. Now, a study has shown that exercise — in this case, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — can help men control these emotions. In the study, 52 men under active surveillance for prostate cancer completed questionnaires about their fear of cancer progression, their quality of life and their emotional health. Then, half of the men completed 12 weeks of supervised HIIT training while the other half did no exercise.

Users trained on a treadmill three times a week, alternating bouts of low-intensity walking with high-intensity jogging five to eight times over a 30-minute session. Compared to people who did not exercise, HIIT participants reported significant improvements in anxiety, stress, and self-esteem.

It’s unclear how the HIIT workouts specifically helped, but the researchers had a few ideas. They hypothesized that regular exercise made men feel like they were doing something to prevent their cancer from progressing. Completing a challenging program like HIIT may also have boosted their self-esteem and strengthened their body to better tolerate stress.

Further trials are needed. Still, the results offer evidence for how exercise can have beneficial effects on mental health as well as physical health. The study appeared in the April 2022 issue of The Journal of Urology.

Image: © Alistair Berg/Getty Images

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