Exercise as it relates to Disease/Exercise effects on Cystic Fibrosis

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Effect of Exercise as Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis (CF)[edit]

Brief Background

Common autosomal genetic disease [1] causing problems in the respiratory and digestive systems. It is caused by a mutation of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Regulatory (CFTR) gene in the exocrine.[2]

Explanation/Diagnosis of CF

Diagnosis [1] usually occurs during early childhood and two main criteria used to diagnose CF include:

  • Genetic Testing (prenatal or early childhood)
  • Sweat Test (sodium chloride levels)

To help confirm the clinical diagnosis,[2] medical specialists will look for the following symptoms:

  • Chronic cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Repeated chest infections
  • Poor weight gain
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • Salty sweat


Exercise [3] as treatment for CF patients in conjuction with more traditional treatments has been found to have positive effects, including:

  • Increased exercise capacity [4]
  • Improved cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Improved pulmonary function

Treating CF through the use of medications is one of the more traditional methods to limit or inhibit the symptoms of CF. Azithromycin [5] and tobramycin [6] are two significant antibiotics that are beneficial towards treating CF.

  • Azithromycin (prevents bacteria growth)
  • Tobramycin (inhibits mRNA translation)

However, side effects [5][6] of these medications can include:

  • Hearing Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Chest Physiotherapy [7] administered by a parent, partner or physiotherapist following exercise has also been found to be beneficial towards inhibiting the symptoms associated with CF.


  • CF patients should consult their general practitioner before starting an exercise program and from there can create a schedule suited to themself.[8]
  • A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise should be performed 3-4 times a week in whatever physical activity the patient feels comfortable with.

Further Reading

  • Cystic Fibrosis Australia [9]

Reference List

  1. a b Stuhrmann, M., et al., (2000)Mutation screening for prental and presymtomatic diagnosis: Cystic fibrosis and Haemochromatosis, Eur J Pediatr, 159(3), 186-191.
  2. a b Farjadian, S., et al., (2013) Clinical and genetic features in patients with cystic fibrosis in south western Iran, Short communication 23(2) pp212-215
  3. Orenstein, D., et al., (1981) Exercise coniditoning and cardiopulmonary fitness in cystic fibrosis: The effects of a three month supervised running program, Clinical investigations, 80(4), 392-398
  4. Enright, S., et al., (2004) Inspiratory muscle training improves lung function and exercise capacity in adults with cystic fibrosis, Chest journal, 126(2), 406-411
  5. a b Wolter, J., et al (2002) Effects of long term treatment with azithromycin on disease parameters in cystic fibrosis: A randomized trial, Thorax, 57(3), 212-216
  6. a b Gibson, R., et al., (2002) Significant microbiologic effect of inhaled tobramycin in young children with cystic fibrosis, American Thoracic Society, 44(3), 1-15
  7. Zach, M., et al., (1982) cystic fibrosis: Physical exercise vesus chest physiotherapy, Archives of disease in childhood, 57, 587-589
  8. Bradely, J., Moran, F., (2012) Physical training for cystic fibrosis, The Cochrane collaboration, 1, 2-56
  9. Cystic Fibrosis Federation Australia (2013), https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.au/