The role of exercise in maintaining health in cystic fibrosis

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2011 Nov;17(6):455-60. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32834b6af4.


Purpose of review: Consensus statements about the care of people with cystic fibrosis (CF) recommend exercise as part of a wider management strategy. Many of these recommendations are based on high-quality evidence that regular exercise improves some important clinical outcomes, such as lung function and quality of life. However, the evidence about the effect of exercise on other clinical outcomes is less extensive or lower in quality. This article will review the physiological effects of exercise on a range of outcomes in people with CF, the mechanisms by which exercise may improve these outcomes and the quality and findings of clinical research into the effects of exercise in the management of CF.

Recent findings: Substantial evidence confirms that exercise significantly reduces the rate of decline in lung function in people with CF, at least in part by increasing mucus clearance. Regular exercise training over 6 months improves aerobic exercise capacity. Bone health is often poor in people with CF, but only indirect evidence supports that increasing the amount of exercise will have a beneficial effect on bone density. CF-related diabetes is also a common sequela of the disease, but again only evidence from type-2 diabetes exists to support exercise as a way of managing it.

Summary: Although its effects on some outcomes are unclear, the overall effect of exercise on quality of life is substantially beneficial and the evidence available for other specific outcomes is directly or indirectly supportive, so it appears appropriate to recommend it in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiratory Function Tests