The Benefits of Exercise

The benefits of regular physical activity for the general population, including improved cardiovascular health, mental health and quality of life (QoL), have been well researched and documented . These benefits will also be experienced by people with cystic fibrosis (CF) along with improvement in mobilisation of secretions and slowing the rate of lung function decline.

In a review of physical activity and exercise training in young people with CF, the importance of setting up good physical activity habits early were noted, as this can impact patterns of physical activity in later years. As with the healthy population, physical activity declines in late adolescents, particularly in females, so reinforcing good exercise habits at this time is encouraged. It is also recommended that exercise should be used as much as possible in the management of CF, as although it will not affect the pathophysiological process of CF, it will bring significant health benefits including reduction in antibiotic days and some improvements in exercise capacity.

Reduced participation in physical activity has been associated with increased hospitalisation in adults with CF. People with CF who were able to perform a total of 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity in at least 10 minute sessions had better lung function, fewer hospitalisations and fewer total hospital days over a 12 month period (Cox, Alison, Button, Wilson, Morton & Holland, 2014).

In 2010 Hebestreit and colleagues looked at the long term positive impact of a physical conditioning program in people with CF aged 12-40 years.  Their findings showed that a home-based partially supervised program can improve fitness, lung function and perceived health for up to 18 months after the intervention has ended.

According to the Consensus Statement for Physiotherapy for Cystic Fibrosis in Australia, it is recommended that people with CF participate in exercise several times a week. There are many barriers to exercise for the general population including financial stress, lack of motivation, perceived time limitations and more. People with CF can face further barriers including clinic appointments, hospitalisation, physiotherapy sessions as well as embarrassment of CF symptoms (cough, incontinence), exacerbations and lack of understanding of CF in the wider community amongst others.

It has been noted that individualised exercise programs have greater benefits for people with CF as the program can be tailored to their specific health needs. It is recommended that exercise programs are prescribed by the individual’s primary care team. There is strong evidence to support a balance of aerobic and strength training in exercise programs, as well as psychological and nutritional support.

Click here for more information about CF and exercise and how CFWA can support you.

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