Dean Cruikshank


Exercise training is commonly recommended as part of the care plan for cystic fibrosis (CF). There are many benefits to participating in an exercise program. It can help your heart and lungs work more efficiently, and increase your muscle strength and endurance, including muscles that help with breathing. These gains can help make it easier to participate in activities that you enjoy. Some research suggests that exercise can have an effect on the disease course and it may improve lung function. It may also assist with mucus clearance. However, note that exercise does NOT replace appropriate airway clearance therapy. Rather, research shows that people with CF do better with a combination of airway clearance and exercise.

Exercise may play a role in managing some complications that can arise with CF. Individuals who have CF related diabetes are recommended to exercise to help manage their blood sugars. Exercise may also have a role in bone health which is important for individuals that have osteopenia or osteoporosis.

There are different types of exercise: cardiovascular, strengthening and stretching exercises. It is important to have a balance of all three to get the best benefits from your exercise routine. Cardiovascular exercises work your heart and lungs by rhythmically moving large muscle groups for around 20 minutes or longer. The intensity of these activities needs to be high enough to challenge your body but not to cause fatigue too quickly. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry on a short conversation while exercising. If you are gasping for breath, the intensity is likely too high. Some examples of cardiovascular exercises include: swimming, biking, fast paced walking, aerobics and running. These types of activities can be performed every day but it is generally encouraged that they are done at least 3-5 times per week.

Strengthening exercises are ones that stress your muscles to make them stronger. An example of this type of exercise is weight training. This involves lifting weighted devices such as dumbells that causes more load to be put on your muscles. This in turn strengthens them over time. It is important to work all of your muscle groups so that you are not strengthening one part of the body over another as this can lead to injury. It is vital to allow enough rest between weight training sessions. This will allow your muscles to rebuild and get stronger.

Stretching exercises increase the flexibility of your muscles and the joint movements. Static or stationary stretching is a popular example. It involves placing a specific muscle in a stretched position and holding it for about 30 seconds. Stretching exercises should be performed after you do either cardiovascular or strengthening exercise. They will help prevent the muscles from tightening up and thus minimize the chance of injury and soreness.

There are other types of exercise that are various combinations of cardiovascular, strengthening and stretching exercises. Yoga and Pilates are two examples that have been becoming more popular over the last few years.

Yoga is a form of exercise originating in ancient India with the belief that the body and breath are closely connected to the mind. The practice includes controlling the breath and holding the body in different poses. There are many different kinds of yoga from a more meditative type practice to more vigorous class with a larger fitness component. Holding the body in different poses for prolonged periods both strengthens and stretches the muscles. Moving from one pose to another quickly also has a cardiovascular component.
Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates believed that mental and physical health were inter-related. He developed a body conditioning routine to build flexibility, strength and endurance in the legs, abdominals, hips and back. There is also a strong emphasis on pelvic and spinal alignment within the routine which can help to prevent or even decrease back pain. A typical Pilates program contains both strengthening and flexibility components.

When starting an exercise program, there are many factors to consider. to ensure your safety and optimize your results. Your physiotherapist can assist you in tailoring the goals, frequency and intensity of your program to suit your needs!