New York: Practicing yoga just twice a week may lead to better physical, sexual and emotional health among patients undergoing prostate cancer radiation treatment, suggest the results of a trial.

Men who attended the yoga classes reported less fatigue and better sexual and urinary function than those who did not, according to the study that looked at the effect of yoga on the side-effects and quality of life issues caused by prostate cancer treatment.

“Levels of patient-reported fatigue are expected to increase by around the fourth or fifth week of a typical treatment course, but that did not happen in the yoga group,” said the trial’s principal investigator Neha Vapiwala from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

“Both the severity of the fatigue as well as the patients’ ability to go about their normal lives appeared to be positively impacted in the yoga group,” Vapiwala said.

All of the patients in the trial underwent between six and nine weeks of external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

The patients were randomised into two groups — one arm participated in a yoga class that met twice a week and the other arm served as a control group.

Each session lasted 75 minutes, beginning with five minutes of breathing and centering techniques and ending with five minutes of Savasana, a common yoga position.

Typical sessions incorporated sitting, standing and reclining positions that were modified using props to adapt to each patient’s needs and restrictions.

Patients in the yoga group reported lower fatigue scores over time, as they attended more yoga sessions, relative to where they started.

Patients who did not participate in yoga trended in the opposite direction, reporting greater fatigue as treatment progressed, according to the study published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics.

Researchers also evaluated both groups in terms of their sexual health.

Sexual dysfunction – including but not limited to erectile dysfunction (ED) – is reported by up to 85 per cent of radiation therapy patients during treatment, often due to the concurrent use of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

The study found that while the yoga group’s score on erectile function ended up largely unchanged from baseline, the non-yoga group saw a decline over the course of treatment.

The trial also found that while the emotional well-being of both groups increased as patients progressed through treatment, the evaluation scores in the yoga group rose more rapidly than in the control group.