Objectives: To evaluate the effects of a 3-year home exercise program on pulmonary function and exercise tolerance in mildly to moderately impaired patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and to assess whether regular aerobic exercise is a realistic treatment option.
Study design: Seventy-two patients with CF (7-19 years) were randomly assigned to an exercise group (a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, at a heart rate of approximately 150 beats/min, 3 times weekly) or a control group (usual physical activity participation). Pulmonary function, exercise tolerance, clinical status, hospitalizations, and compliance with therapy were monitored during scheduled visits to the hospital's CF clinic.
Results: Sixty-five patients were included in the analyses. The control group demonstrated a greater annual decline in percent of predicted forced vital capacity compared with the exercise group (mean slope +/- SD, -2.42 +/- 4.15 vs -0.25 +/- 2.81; P =.02), with a similar trend for forced expiratory volume in 1 second (-3.47 +/- 4.93 vs -1.46 +/- 3. 55; P =.07). Patients remained compliant with the exercise program over the study period. An improved sense of well-being was reported with exercise.
Conclusions: Pulmonary function declined more slowly in the exercise group than in the control group, suggesting a benefit for patients with CF participating in regular aerobic exercise. Consistent compliance with the home exercise program and a self-reported positive attitude toward exercise provide further evidence of the feasibility and value of including an aerobic exercise program in the conventional treatment regimen of patients with CF.