Why Exercise Is Crucial for Those with Cystic Fibrosis
People coping with cystic fibrosis (CF) experience deficiencies in their digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems. There is currently no cure for the genetic condition and due to the accumulation of thick and sticky mucus within the lungs, those people with CF are more prone to developing infections. However, there are several treatments available to help alleviate symptoms, improve health, as well as increase life expectancy. While taking medication on a daily basis is a vital part of treatment, undergoing physiotherapy and respiratory training are just as important. What’s more, proper nutrition and regular physical exercise is of critical importance to the CF patient, helping to improve their overall quality of life.
If you are living with CF, your symptoms may be making it hard for you to exercise on a regular basis. While it may be tough, make no mistake that regular physical exercise can offer several benefits, including:
- Disposing of mucus from the airways
- Improving function of the lungs
- Reducing stress levels
- Strengthening the bones and muscles
- Increasing energy levels
- Helping the body to fight off infections
- Improving sleeping patterns
- Improving mood
What are the guidelines for physical activity for individuals of different ages living with CF?
Children ages 1-6
Toddlers and young children with CF (ages 1-6) should spend at least one hour a day engaging in physical activities for their development, such as jumping and climbing. Findings suggest that toddlers spending time on their stomachs allows them to develop their core muscles and posture. Moreover, for young children, high-intensity activities are best so playtime is always encouraged.
Children ages 7-12
Children with CF (ages 7-12) should spend at least one hour a day engaging in moderate to strenuous types of physical activities. Activities that involve running and jumping and sporting events, such as basketball and volleyball, are intense enough so that mucus can be disposed of from the airways and bone density can be improved. Within this age group, children with CF can develop proper habits for regular physical exercise.
Teenagers ages 13-19
Teenagers with CF (ages 13-19) should spend at least one hour a day engaging in moderate to strenuous types of physical activities, including 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and some type of formal resistance training (using resistance bands or weights). Puberty is a transitional period in a child’s life, but for a teenager living with CF, it can be a time for delayed growth and embarrassing symptoms, such as flatulence. For this reason, teenagers within this age group can benefit from participating in physical activities, which can help to slow down the decline in lung function and to maximize their well-being. It is recommended to work with a personal trainer or physical therapist in order to learn how to properly exercise and prevent injuries.
Young adults ages 19 and above
Young adults (ages 19 and above) should spend at least 2 and a half hours per week (21 minutes per day!) engaging in moderate to strenuous types of physical activities. Much like the group of teenagers ages 13-19, young CF adults should perform formal resistance training and other types of strenuous physical activities to help improve their lung function and muscle tone. What’s more, they should perform stretching exercises to improve their range of motion. Since every individual is different, it is important to find an exercise routine that works best for each person, taking into account any existing CF-related complications.
Read on to learn more about exercise and CF.