Decades ago, doctors advised parents of children with cystic fibrosis to avoid vigorous play and exercise for their kids, under the assumption that they were “too sick” to engage in the same activities as other children. Today, however, exercise is considered a key component of staying healthy, and doctors are in unanimous agreement that exercise can add years to the life of a person with CF.
Regular exercise has a variety of benefits for people with CF. Aerobic exercise – such as running or cycling – creates a natural vibration that helps loosen mucus in the lungs. It also promotes airway clearance by moving high volumes of air through partially clogged passages, and by stimulating coughing, which helps in removal of the loosened mucus. Vigorous exercise also helps preserve the elasticity of the lung walls, further promoting the ability to clear mucus. And, as it does in people without CF, exercise improves overall cardiovascular health.
One of the difficult-to-measure benefits of exercise is improved mental health. People with CF, and especially younger patients, can enjoy the social aspects of exercise when they participate in sports or other group physical activities. And all types of exercise can help a person with CF achieve a greater sense of well-being and independence.
It is important that people with CF (or parents of a child with CF) work with their health care team to create an appropriate exercise program that takes into account the patient’s interests and limitations. In addition to addressing what types of activities will most benefit the patient, an exercise plan should cover nutritional issues like staying hydrated and making up for expended calories.
For additional information on incorporating exercise into a CF treatment plan, check out the resources below. Additional links may be found on our Links Page.
• Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: Staying Healthy
• Centers for Disease Control: How much exercise do you need?
• Centers for Disease Control: Body and Mind: Physical Activity Info for Kids
• Medline Plus: Exercise and Physical Fitness