Cystic fibrosis (CF) is among the most common genetic diseases, affecting about 30,000 people in the Unites States alone. Due to a mutation in the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, patients experience deficiencies in their respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems, as well as problems with temperature regulation and fluid balance. There is currently no cure for the disease and due to the abnormally high production of thick and sticky mucus, patients are more likely to grow bacteria and develop infections.

However, there are treatments that help patients improve health, ease symptoms, and increase life expectancy for those with CF. Daily medication is an important part of the treatment, while patients also need to undergo physiotherapy and respiratory training. Nutrition is also key in maximizing patients’ wellbeing, which is why the majority of patients need to take enzymes and vitamin supplements. Symptoms of the disease can make it difficult for patients to conduct exercise, but regular physical activity can have a significant impact in improving patients’ quality of life, as determined by recent studies on the topic.

Cystic Fibrosis and Exercise Impact

“Physical exercise is recognized to have considerable clinical benefit for different disease proceses. Regular habitual activity is cardio protective and associated with a reduced morbidity and mortality for established cardiovascular disease. Pulmonary rehabilitation programmes for patients with chronic airways obstruction (COAD), of which exercise is a core component, are being enthusiastically researched for their potential therapeutic benefit,” explained the authors of the study “Exercise and cystic fibrosis,” A. K. Webb, FRCP, M. E. Dodd, MCSP, and J. Moorcroft, MRCP.

By engaging in exercise, the adrenergic and purinergic pathways of the body are activated, which are routes responsible for regulating the activity of ion channels on airway epithelia cells and sweat glands. This process is thought to result in systemic improvements as well as improvements in the pathophysiological ion dysregulation at a cellular level. According to the study “Exercise Is Medicine in Cystic Fibrosis,” the benefits of exercise in patients with cystic fibrosis include increased exercise tolerance, respiratory muscle endurance and sputum expectoration, reduced residual volume and rate of decline in pulmonary function, improvements in fluid balance and retention of serum electrolytes, as well as lower risk of death.

Exercise Guidelines for Patients with Cystic Fibrosis

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) offers a guide to patients, entitled, “Day-to-Day: Exercise and Cystic Fibrosis (CF),” with recommendations about the topic detailed for each patient. The foundation reminds that anyone can make exercise, but that it is important for patients to seek their CF Care Center for advice and support. When planning exercise routines, there are three things that patients must keep in mind: if it is a likable type of exercise that fits their schedule, if it connects them with friends and family, and if it is an exercise that helps make the heart and lungs, or bones and muscles stronger. For children, the CFF recommends a type of exercise that involves them in many types of activities, reward them when they join group events, plan active playtime on most days of the week, as well as keeping TV and video game time to a minimum.

Similarly, for teenagers, the foundation believes activities that make them feel good around their peers are preferable, while they are more likely to stick with a regular activity program that increases their self-esteem. Finally, adults are recommended to pick a comfortable and likable activity that keeps the heart and lungs exercising the whole time, to find an exercise partner, to do a variety of activities, to choose activities that fit their lifestyle, to pick lifetime activities like running and biking, to find some activities that aren’t extremely competitive, but also to set fair yet challenging goals. For specific types of exercise or time to perform it, it is important that patients seek professional help to avoid potential problems.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.