Cystic Fibrosis Trust Helps Launch CF Exercise Research Center with £750,000 Grant

Daniela Semedo, PhD avatar

by Daniela Semedo, PhD |

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CF and exercise

An innovative research center providing tailored physical activity and exercise regimens for young people with cystic fibrosis (CF) has been launched with support for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The center will benefit from the skills of an international team of specialists, led by Professor Craig Williams and Dr. Alan Barker from the University of Exeter, U.K., where it will be based.

Researchers and clinicians from the Universities of Swansea and LaTrobe in Melbourne, Australia, the University of Toronto and Sickkids Hospital, in Canada, and Great Ormond Street Hospital, U.K., will also participate in the work, largely funded through the Trust’s £750,000 grant.

Its goal is to develop guidelines and recommendations to assist health professionals in determining the appropriate blend of physical activity and exercise most beneficial to CF patients, and that might best be tailored to an individual patient’s needs.  The disease has no cure, but available treatments do help patients manage its effects. Physical activity, exercise, and physiotherapy are known to be of benefit, but no guidelines exist as to best exercise types or intensity.

“Adolescence is characterised by a marked decline in physical activity participation, particularly in girls, and is known to track into adulthood. This reduction can have long-term consequences for people with CF, including reduced lung function, health related quality of life and aerobic fitness, which is a key predictor of patient mortality. We know that the promotion of physical activity and more formal exercise training are two ways in which people with cystic fibrosis can manage their condition, but they are still often underutilised,” Professor Williams, an expert in pediatric Physiology and Health, and  director of Exeter’s Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, said in a press release.

“The difficulty can be that while each individual will need different levels of exercise, it is not always easy to recommend what that will be. This centre has some of the world’s leading experts in the field and will help clinicians determine what the type and in what context activity and exercise can be recommend,” added Professor Williams. “We are confident that this research will fill in some of the gaps that exist in treating cystic fibrosis, and so have a truly positive impact on the day to day quality of life of so many people.”

In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria, leading to infections, extensive lung damage and, eventually, respiratory failure.

Keith Brownlee, director of Impact at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, concluded: “Being physically active has important clinical benefits for cystic fibrosis, including improved lung function, aerobic fitness and lung clearance. It also brings psychological and social benefits such as improved self-confidence, socialisation and self-esteem. Despite this knowledge there is limited evidence in this area and as such, we’re delighted to offer the University of Exeter this grant to explore the benefits of activity further and look forward to sharing the results.”