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Exercise and CF in different age groups

It’s well-known in the CF community that regular exercise improves lung function. But what are the guidelines about physical activity for people of different ages?

1-6 years old

Toddlers and young kids with CF should get at least an hour of physical activity per day. For babies, research suggests that time spent in the prone position (“tummy time”) helps them develop their trunk muscles (the “core”), and posture. Typically, toddlers and preschool-aged kids will thrive if their activity is play-based and high-intensity. Playtime should be fun!

7-12 years old

Kids in this range should have at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day. They’ll have difficulty participating if they have moderate to severe lung disease or if their bodies have a harder time digesting food. Their activity should be intense enough that they are breathing a bit harder, but can still carry on a conversation. This helps clear their airways.

Activities can include running, jumping, and sports like basketball or volleyball, which will help with their bone density. In this age range, it is important to help kids develop good physical activity habits.

13-19 years old

Teenagers should get at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day, which should include at least 30 minutes each of aerobic exercise and some formal resistance training to develop their muscles. CF teens usually don’t get as much exercise as their peers, often because of the many complications brought on by the disease. In a time when puberty is affecting so many of their friends, CF teens might be delayed and feel embarrassed because of this. On top of that, a lot of them have bodies that don’t always cooperate–coughing, flatulence or urine leaks make it really hard for them to feel excited about participating in a physical group activity. That said, physical activity at this age will still slow the decline in lung function, so the types of activities should be carefully considered alongside their needs in order to boost participation.


Over 19 years old

CF adults should get at least 150 minutes per week–and preferably double that–of moderate-to-vigorous activity. Like the teenaged group, formal resistance training is encouraged to help with muscle tone. Most CF adults don’t get as much exercise as their non-CF peers yet, among those who do, many say that regular, vigorous physical activity is key in helping them manage their lives with CF. Since everybody is different, it is important to find a reasonable plan for physical activity that works for each person, taking into consideration complications like CF-related diabetes or low bone density.