Benign prostate hyperplasia: a further reason to recommend regular physical activity?

Roy J. Shephard


Objectives: Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) is a major health concern, affecting a large proportion of older men. It reduces their quality of life and causes problems in urination that limit exercise, social involvement and normal sleep. Little is known concerning its etiology or prevention. The primary objective of the present review is to evaluate whether regular physical activity can help to diminish the risk of developing BPH. Methods: The Ovid/Medline and Pub-Med data bases were searched systematically from 1996 to May 2106, combining terms for physical activity (exercise, physical activity, sports, athletes, physical fitness and physical education/training) with the terms benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatic hyperplasia. Results: Combining studies of occupational and leisure activity, 21 studies (4 covering both occupational and leisure activity) have now looked at the association between BPH and physical activity; 16 of these 21 analyses showed a trend to a lower risk of BPH in the more active individuals, with a significant advantage in 11 of the 16 evaluations. Most authors pointed to a progressive benefit with a greater frequency, intensity or volume of physical activity, but 2 reports found an adverse effect in highly committed exercisers. The optimum age for undertaking preventive activity remains unclear. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of BPH, and a high level of habitual physical activity may act mainly by reducing the risk of obesity.  In studies with more vigorous exercise, a further factor may have been an activity-induced modulation of androgenic hormones.  Conclusions: Lifelong physical activity is significantly associated with a reduced risk of BPH, and although causality has not been proven, this seems one more reason to encourage participation in regular physical activity. Motivation may not be easy in elderly men, but some data suggest that the risk of BPH is 25% lower in those walking for as little as 2-3 hours per week.


Distance running, Exercise medicine, Leisure activity, Lower urinary tract disorders, Occupational activity, Preventive medicine

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Copyright (c) 2016 Roy J. Shephard

ISSN: 19206216