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Many people think that sports and exercise are unsafe or unhealthy for people with CF. Exercise has benefits for all ages, and it may surprise you to learn that exercise is important for people with CF and should be encouraged. When done safely and correctly, exercise provides the following health

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  • Makes the heart and lungs stronger
  • Helps clear mucus
  • Gives you more energy
  • Builds muscles and strong bones
  • Lowers emotional stress
  • Improves gross-motor skills (jumping, throwing)
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Increases self-image and self-esteem

Before you or your child start to exercise, talk to your CF care team. They can tell you more about what activities are approved and those that should be avoided. Remember to be careful, and be sure your body is able to handle the stress of certain activities, such as lifting weights. Talk to your CF care team before starting or changing any exercise regimen or participating in contact sports (such as football, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, etc).

What exercise is right for you?1

There are important questions to ask when choosing activities that may be right for you:

First: Do you like the activity? Does it fit into your schedule? Find something you like doing and can make time for. You're more likely to stick with it.

Second: Does the activity involve friends or family? For kids and teens, this may mean joining a playgroup or sports team. For adults, this may mean joining an adult league or finding an exercise partner. Exercising is more fun and helps you feel connected to your peers when you're part of a team or have an exercise buddy.

Third: What kind of activity are you interested in? Is it cardio or strength training? Can you do it for more than 20 minutes at a time? Activities that make your heart beat faster and harder over time (cardio) help keep your heart healthy and lungs strong. Strength training activities help your muscles and bones get stronger. You can mix and match activities, too. And remember that any exercise is better than no exercise at all.

Fourth: Discuss the activity you want to try with your CF care team. They will be able to help you decide if it is an appropriate activity for you.

Exercise tips for all ages

The information in this section is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always speak with your physician to determine what activities or exercise program are appropriate for you.

Tips for children1
Exercise test3
Tips for teens1
Tips for adults1,2
It's important for children to develop a good attitude about exercise at a young age. This will help instill healthy exercise habits that they'll carry with them as they grow up. Children learn by experience. It's a good idea to have regularly scheduled activities with family and/or friends. Here are some tips for teaching your child about exercise:
  • Find activities that are easy for everyone to do
  • Expose children to many types of activities. This helps them decide on their own what they like and don't like
  • Children should be rewarded when they join group activities. Be creative with rewards. Pick something they haven't done before (such as a canoe rental or hiking trip)
  • Allow for playtime (organized or other) almost every day
  • Children shouldn't watch too much TV or play video games for hours. This keeps them from being active
Before your child begins exercising more than normal, it's a good idea to consider an exercise test first to see how well your child's lungs and heart are working. The test can also help the pulmonologist determine:
  • How hard your child can safely exercise
  • If there are any underlying health conditions that are only present during exercise
  • Your child's level of fitness
For more information about the exercise test, and before you start any exercise test, talk to your CF care team.
Many active teens have developed good exercise habits. You know what you like and don't like. Trying new things is encouraged. You should participate in activities that make you feel good around your peers. If you aren't currently active or have never been part of a sports team or league, think about what activities you are interested in. Ask your group of friends what they are involved in. If it sounds like fun, ask to watch a game and go check it out. If you have a packed schedule, try and find activities or exercise regimens that will fit into your daily routine. You're also more likely to stick to a program that increases your self-esteem. Before joining a team or league, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How is the team/league run? Will I feel good about growing my skill set?
  • Do those in charge care about my CF needs, and are they trained to give me a good experience?
  • Is winning or having fun most important?
  • Are the players matched by age, skill, and size? Will I feel overwhelmed?
Listen to your body. Rest when you feel tired; don't overdo it. You may want to take an exercise test before trying a new activity. If you have any questions, talk to your doctor and/or CF care team.
As an adult with CF, you may be faced with more limitations than when you were a child or teen. If you haven't made exercise a regular part of your life, it's important to talk with your CF care team first. As you get older, some activities can make heart and lung diseases worsen and increase bone and joint problems. An exercise test may be needed to find safe levels.

If you are active on a regular basis, keep the following in mind. Choose:
  • Comfortable activities you enjoy
  • Activities that keep your heart and lungs exercising the whole time
  • An exercise partner
  • Varying activities. This will help reduce boredom and bone/joint injuries
  • Activities that fit your lifestyle
  • Lifetime activities like running and biking
  • Activities that aren't too competitive. Exercising just for fun lowers tension
  • Fair yet challenging goals for yourself
Try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day for an activity or exercise, 3 days a week. If you have any questions, talk to your CF care team.3

The information in this section is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always speak with your physician to determine what activities or exercise program are appropriate for you.

Remember to stay hydrated2,4

Stay hydrated no matter what exercise or activity you participate in. People with CF lose more salt when they sweat than people without CF. Be sure to drink plenty of water and/or sports drinks (with added salt if need be) before, during, and after your workout. You can even make your own sports drink using our recipe. Fluid breaks are encouraged and should happen often. Eat salty snacks before and after exercising. Check with your dietitian before taking body- and energy-building supplements or power drinks. Some supplements might negatively affect your CF medicine.

Chocolate milk after a workout?4

It may sound strange, but drinking chocolate milk after a workout has many health benefits.6 Chocolate milk:
  • Is made up of almost 85% water so it helps replace some of the fluids lost during exercise
  • Provides simple sugars to help replenish the energy used during exercise
  • Has high-quality proteins to build and repair muscles after exercise
  • Is rich in minerals (such as calcium) to replace some of those lost during exercise
  • Tastes good and is high in calories
Patient Introductions, Infants & Children
Exercise and staying active, Infants & Children
Patient Introductions, Teens & Young Adults
Exercise and staying active, Teens & Young Adults
References: 1. Day-to-day exercise and cystic fibrosis (CF). Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. https://www.cff.org/Living-with-CF/Treatments-and-Therapies/Fitness/Day-to-Day-Exercise-and-CF/. Accessed May 1, 2016. 2. Nutrition: for teens with cystic fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. https://www.cff.org/PDF-Archive/Nutrition-for-Teens/. Accessed May 1, 2016. 3. Cystic fibrosis and exercise. Cincinnati Children's website. http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/c/cycstic-fibrosis-exercise/. Accessed May 1, 2016. 4. Preventing dehydration in CF. Toronto Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre website. http://www.torontoadultcf.com/sites/torontoadultcf.com/files/preventing_dehydration_in_CF.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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