Physical Activity and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

The Prostate Loves Moderation: Activity and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia(BPH)



The Takeaway First:

Extreme inactivity and extreme activity are both bad for your prostate, a recent study shows. A recent article in the International Neurourology Journal indicates that Korean males who spent more time sitting down or who exercised five or more times per week had larger prostates. Heed the findings, protect your prostate, and exercise in moderation!

The Details:

  • Participants of this study were 582 Korean men over the age of 40.
  • Sedentary time was found to have a positive correlation with prostate size.
  • Subjects who spent less time sitting (4.5 to 7 hours per day) had significantly smaller prostates than those who spent more than 7 hours a day sitting.
  • Participants who exercised more than five times per week were also found to have an increased risk of BPH.
  • Neither the amount of time spent in exercise nor the amount of leisure-time physical activity had a significant association with prostate size.

My take on this:

We live in an ageing world. The World Health Organization estimates that there will be over two billion people over the age of 60 by the year 2050. With an increased average age, the world population of men naturally increases its risk of an enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition that comes with age among males. Symptoms include difficult and frequent urinating. I wouldn’t say it’s normal, but it’s certainly common. About half of men over 50 develop some symptoms of BPH. It’s called “benign” because it’s not cancerous, but benign doesn’t mean it’s worth ignoring.

As the findings suggest, many factors put people at risk for BPH. There are of course factors outside our control such as age, genetics, and geography, but there are plenty of factors that are within our control (Patel & Parsons, 2014). Most important among these factors are diet, physical activity, sedentary time, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, because these depend on your lifestyle choices.

According to the Korean study, the first thing we should do is to spend less time sitting down. If your job involves a lot of sitting, take a break every hour and go for a short walk. Do some squats during your coffee break, or keep a pair of dumbbells in your cubicle.

But it’s not just about hopping out of your chair every once in a while; it’s about total health. Patel and Parsons (2014) suggest that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially ones high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid (nuts and seeds), can also decrease your risk of BPH. This and maintaining a healthy weight will put you on the right path.

The Bottom Line:

In the exercise community, a healthy lifestyle is often confused with an extremely active lifestyle. (I’m thinking of CrossFit and its cousins.) But for thousands of years we have known that health is not based on extremes; it’s based on avoiding extremes. In terms of prostate health, it’s clear that extreme exercise and extreme sitting are both potentially harmful. So don’t be fooled by the doctrine of “ultra-fit.” Take Cicero’s advice:

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”


Lee, H. W., Kim, S. A., Nam, J. W., Kim, M. K., Choi, B. Y., & Moon, H. S. (2014). The study about physical activity for subjects with prevention of benign prostate hyperplasia. Int Neurourol J, 18(3), 155-162. doi: 10.5213/inj.2014.18.3.155

Patel, N. D., & Parsons, J. K. (2014). Epidemiology and etiology of benign prostatic hyperplasia and bladder outlet obstruction. Indian J Urol, 30(2), 170-176. doi: 10.4103/0970-1591.126900

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