Our experts answered your questions when it comes to exercise and CF

Dr. Larry Lands, Dr. Maggie McLlwaine, Jane Schneiderman, Nicki Perkins smiling on Zoom during the Ask the Experts Webinar

JULY 27, 2022

Exercise provides an important benefit for all individuals but especially patients with CF. Exercise capacity is a marker of fitness and longevity, and being active helps our overall muscle, heart and lung function. Although exercise is not a replacement for physical therapy, it can greatly help to assist in the strengthening of muscles as well as improving moods and mental health. This can allow patients to be better able to comply with therapies.  

What are the benefits of exercise for lung health? 

Jane Schneiderman explained that exercise with a huff or cough improves mucus clearance, which improves lung function; however, this is not a replacement, simply an adjunct to ACT. Schneiderman et al (2014) found an increase in habitual physical activity (HPA) was associated with a slower rate of decline in FEV1 levels. Additionally, exercise builds stamina, strengthens muscles, improves mental health and bone density. She suggests that weight bearing exercises such as aerobics, running, high intensity interval training (HIIT), walking and stair climbing can reduce the risk of low bone mineral density, fracture and osteoporosis. 

How can I include exercise in my daily routine without making it a chore? 

Dr. Maggie Mcllwaine recommends picking exercises or physical activities that you enjoy doing and to find ways to integrate exercise into your everyday life. This can be as simple as walking your kids to school if you’re within a reasonable distance, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, or signing your child up for a sports group that they are interested in.  

What are recommendations and practical tips for exercising? 

Cystic Fibrosis physician, Dr. Larry Lands, suggests speaking with your CF team to figure out what kind of exercises are appropriate for you and your goals. You can also incorporate your family and friends into your routine and include a mix of activities, so you don’t get bored of your routine. 

“It’s really important that exercise is enjoyable. It should not be work or another therapy.”

-Dr. Larry Lands 

The recommended amount of exercise per week for children is 60 minutes a day for 5 days a week and 150 minutes per week for adults. This exercise should consist of moderate to vigorous activity. Moderate activity means you’re breathing hard but you’re able to still talk and sing, whereas vigorous activity means you should only be able to talk in short sentences. It’s also recommended that children include flexibility and coordination activities such as throwing and catching a ball. It is important for CF patients to remember that as much as you should push yourself, listen to your body! Adjust your exercise to your tolerance and what suits you best. As your exercise habits increase, don’t forget to adjust your protein intake, continue to hydrate and replace your salt levels. 

How has exercise impacted my life with CF? 

Nicki Perkins, a CrossFit and exercise expert who lives with CF, shared her personal experience with exercise throughout her life, how she incorporated CrossFit into her routine and the benefits she’s experienced since joining. Read Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s feature blog to learn more about Nicki’s fitness journey, how she stays motivated and what has worked for her. 

The experts also discussed the importance of posture, how to exercise with a PICC line or VAD, if exercise can replace airway clearance, grants available to help cover the cost of equipment and so much more! Visit our website to learn how to tailor exercise and activities for different age groups and to watch the full recording of our Ask the Experts Webinar: Tips and Tricks for Exercise and CF

Thank you to our experts Dr. Maggie Mcllwaine, Network Manager, Clinical Trial Network, at CF Canada, Dr. Larry Lands CF Physician at the McGill University Health Centre, Jane Schneiderman, Exercise Physiologist, at The Hospital for Sick Children, and Nicki Perkins, a CrossFit and exercise expert who lives with CF.