Regular exercise plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for both CF patients as well as healthy individuals. A regular exercise routine helps an individual to maintain a healthy body weight, reduce their risk of developing comorbidities such as diabetes, strengthens bones, strengthens your immune system, improves mood, as well as strengthens your respiratory and cardiac muscles. However many CF patients are aware of the difficulties of integrating exercise into their routine.
Physical activity has been recognized to have considerable clinical benefits in CF patients. Some of these benefits have been mentioned above however here are a few that are more specific to CF patients. Integrating exercise into your routine could slow an individual’s lung function decline, strengthen the heart muscle and thus allows it to cope better when the body is put under stress as well as improves lung function which increases the reserves to use during exacerbations or lung infections. Exercise also helps CF patients to be less limited in what activities they are able to do with friends and family and thus allows them to enjoy a more normal lifestyle. Regular exercise can also lead to an improved self-esteem and increased confidence and independence in CF patients.
Physical activity recommendations for each individual will vary according to age, weight, symptoms, lung function and current health. It is therefore important for CF patients to seek professional advice from a Biokineticist and physiotherapist who, along with the medical team, will advise the patient on their individual requirements, and work with the patient to deliver practical recommendations, ensuring they are doing what their body needs to stay healthy and strong. Physical activity should not be used to replace, but rather done in conjunction with regular physio sessions.
There are also however times where a CF patient will be advised not to exercise. Some of the contraindications for exercise are pulmonary hypertension, an exacerbation or respiratory infection as well as during courses of treatments or antibiotics. CF patients that also have diabetes should check their sugars before and after exercise and monitor them closely during exercise and always have a snack with them in case of a sugar low.
Some simple exercise guidelines for CF patients
It is vital for all children to develop a positive attitude towards exercise as well as good exercise habits from a young age. This starts early and with the family. When families commit to regular activity, children learn good habits and develop a good attitude towards it. Families should encourage exercise in the form of games or play time rather than traditional exercise such as running. Kids can be taught to ride a bike or to throw, catch and kick balls as this will provide the opportunity for them to potentially get into a ball sport later on in life. Gymnastics (stretching) and dancing are also a good form of exercise for kids as it is weightbearing activities like these in younger years that are so important for development of muscle tone and good bone density. Regular family walks in a beautiful setting can also be a good form of low intensity cardio exercise for kids and this is important for strengthening their respiratory and cardiac muscles from a young age.
For adults it is important that they include both cardiovascular and resistance training in their exercise routine. Low to moderate intensity cardio training includes activities such as cycling, jogging, walking and swimming and these are all vitally important in strengthening both your respiratory and cardiac muscles. Including this type of physical activity regularly could help decrease levels of exhaustion that occurs after performing normal activities of daily living such as house work , and thus improves overall quality of life. Cardiovascular exercise also helps in weight maintenance as well as reduces the risk of acquiring other comorbidities.
Resistance exercise also plays an important role in strengthening both your bones and your muscles. Doing bodyweight exercise as well as light weights (dumbbells) or resistance band exercises are examples of resistance training. This type of exercise is also important for maintenance of bone density as well as increasing muscle strength. This will also help reduce the stress that daily activities place on your body.
Stretching and breathing activities such as Pilates and yoga are also incredible ways for CF patients to strengthen their lungs and increase their lung capacity. Stretching will open up your chest and reduce the amount of pressure in your chest cavity and this too will improve your quality of life and ease of breathing.
The amount of time spent doing exercise is totally dependent on each individual and how they feel. It is important to start off slowly and build up and add on as you feel fit to.
For adults that haven’t made regular physical activity a part of their normal routine, they should seek medical approval before starting an exercise program. This will ensure that they can exercise safely. Some activities can make heart and lung disease and bone and joint problems worse and thus an exercise test may be needed to find safe levels for each individual.
To reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries be sure to participate in any activity in moderation until you have built up enough stamina and strength to exercise at a higher intensity.
Please feel free to get hold of me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding exercise and CF. Otherwise follow our Instagram page @duo_balancedliving for balanced healthy living tips.
Written by Nikki Hamaan, a Biokinetecist from Duo Balanced Living