Prostate cancer can negatively impact the health of patients and their spouse, particularly early on in the cancer trajectory.
To determine the feasibility and acceptability of dyadic exercises during radiation therapy and preliminary efficacy on physical, mental, and relational outcomes for men and their spouses. Exercising Together© , originally designed as a 6-month dyadic resistance training program for couples post-treatment, was adapted for the radiation setting.
We conducted a single-group pilot feasibility study of Exercising Together© in men scheduled for radiation therapy for prostate cancer and their spouse . Couples attended supervised exercise sessions thrice weekly throughout radiation treatment and were followed up 8 weeks later. Primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptability with secondary outcomes of changes in physical (physical functioning (short physical performance battery (sPPB)), gait speed (m/s), functional capacity (400-m walk (min), physical activity (min/week)), mental (depressive symptoms (CES-D), and anxiety (SCL-90 ANX)), and relationship (Dyadic Coping, Role Overload, and Physical Intimacy Behavior Scales) health outcomes for each partner. Participants completed an evaluation post-intervention.
Ten couples enrolled and 8 completed the intervention, attending 83% of scheduled sessions. Couple satisfaction with the intervention was high (patients: mean difference (MD) = 9.4 ± 1.9 and spouses: MD = 10.0 ± 0.0, on a 1–10 scale). At post-intervention, gait speed (MD = 0.1; 95%CI: 0.1, 0.2; p = 0.003; d = 0.94) and functional capacity (MD = −0.6; 95%CI: −0.9, 0.3; p = 0.002; d = −0.42) improved in patients and sPPB in spouses (MD = 1.3; 95%CI: 0.3, 2.2; p = 0.02; d = 0.71). Total physical activity increased non-significantly for patients and significantly for spouses at post-intervention and decreased at follow-up (MD = 179.6; 95%CI: 55.4, 303.7; p = 0.01; d = 1.35 and MD = −139.9; 95%CI: −266.5, 13.3; p = 0.03; d =1.06). Among patients, anxiety and active engagement significantly improved post-intervention (MD = −2.3; 95%CI: −3.8, 0.7; p = 0.01; d = −0.43 and MD = 2.5; 95%CI: 0.7, 4.3; p = 0.01; d = 0.98, respectively). There were modest effects on other physical, mental, and relationship health domains in patients and spouses.
A modified version of Exercising Together© is a feasible and acceptable program during radiation therapy for prostate cancer and shows preliminary evidence for improvements on physical, mental, and relational health in both patient and spouse. A larger, fully powered randomized controlled trial is warranted and could help shift the landscape toward dyadically targeted interventions.
This study was registered on ClinicalTrials.gov on February 18th, 2018 ( NCT03418025 ).