Exercise and CF — Surf! Swim! Run! Dance! It’s All Good!
Emily Haager gets ready to hang 10.
Should people with CF exercise? “Absolutely!” says Anne Mejia Downs, a physical therapist at the University of Indianapolis CF Center. "But what is the best type of exercise for people with CF? The truth is, the best type of exercise for anyone is the one that they will do.”
Exercising helps people with CF enjoy better overall health and comes with great benefits, such as:
- Increasing lung capacity
- Increasing strength and endurance
- Increasing energy
- Improving airway clearance, which helps prevent respiratory infections
- Increasing bone density and preventing bone loss
“After a good workout or surf session in the ocean, I cough out a ton of mucus and breathe deeper than when I started. Exercising makes me feel more like my normal self,” says Emily Haager, an adult with CF who is an avid California surfer.
Getting started is the hardest part of putting together an exercise routine. But don’t get bogged down in the specifics, just be smart about your physical activities. Tailor your exercise to your age, interests and individual capabilities. Talk to your CF care team before getting started to determine what amount and type of exercise is best for you. The CF Center at Children’s Hospital of Minnesota has put together a great series of L.I.F.E with Cystic Fibrosis Education Sheets that list age-appropriate activities for people with CF.
Once you find an exercise routine that fits your interests and personality, keep these tips from the experts in mind:
- Stay hydrated. Replace fluids and salt lost during exercise. Keep water or sports drinks on hand, as well as a salty snack.
- Eat smart. Be sure to eat enough calories to replace the calories burned in exercise. The dietitian at your CF care center can help keep your nutrition in step with your exercise.
- Continue treatments. Exercise does not and should not replace airway clearance techniques (ACT), rather they should work together to achieve maximum benefit. Your CF care team can help you develop the best routine for exercise and ACT.
- Ask questions. Your CF care center team is your best reference when developing an exercise regimen. Don’t be shy. There are no dumb questions.
- Reward yourself. Downs says that the most important aspect of exercise is to “find a way to reward yourself for exercising regularly—you're doing something great for yourself, so celebrate!"
Not only is exercise good for you, but it also can give a great boost to your self-esteem and confidence. “Exercise is key in keeping me healthy and strong,” says Haager. “It not only energizes my body but it allows my soul to feel healthy as well. No matter how I feel that day, I know that I get to be thankful for my life whether I am taking a slow walk, working out at the gym or swimming hard in the ocean.”
Learn more about exercise and staying healthy with CF.
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