Children with CF Benefit from Simple Exercise Program
Many pulmonologists have shied away from formally prescribing exercise as part of the treatment plan for children with cystic fibrosis (CF). But it may be time for change. A small Johns Hopkins Children's Center study of children and teens with CF shows that simple exercise, individually tailored to each patient's preference and lifestyle, can help improve lung function and overall fitness.
Because rigidly structured high-intensity exercise routines are hard to sustain over time, the Johns Hopkins team designed exercise regimens that fit easily into each patient's daily life. Researchers asked 58 children with CF, ages 6 to 16, to describe preferred physical activities. Based on their answers, the patients received individual exercise recommendations, including going for a stroll, taking a dance class, playing basketball in the driveway or playing with a Wii.
Researchers compared the patients' lung function and exercise tolerance before and after the two-month program. The exercise tolerance test consisted of walking multiple 10-meter (roughly 33 feet) intervals. After completing the exercise programs, patients were able to perform seven more 10-meter walking intervals, on average, than they were before completing the exercise regimen. All children showed small bumps in pulmonary function tests, but children who increased their exercise capacity by 10 or more walking intervals showed even more noticeable improvement (5 percent or more) in lung function scores.
On average, patients also reported improved self-image, the researchers say. "Exercise not only appears to improve lung status in children with CF, but goes a long way toward benefiting their overall health, self-perception and emotional well-being," said lead investigator Shruti Paranjape, M.D., a pediatric pulmonary specialist at Johns Hopkins.