The Importance of Exercise with CF

Emily, an adult living with CF, talks about her changing relationship with exercise

As I write this, I am sitting on my exercise bike in our new “health and wellness” room of our house, typing on my phone. We moved from an apartment to a house in June and made sure that one of the bedrooms would be turned into an exercise room for me. As my CF has progressed, exercise has become an even more important part of my daily routine to keep me healthy. Whether I ride my exercise bike, lift weights, do yoga, go to an Orange Theory class, or go to PT, I am constantly trying to keep my body moving and air flowing through my lungs. 

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I had always been very active growing up. I took dance classes from age 3-13, and I was in marching band throughout high school. When I went to college, my exercise slowed down drastically. I would go to the student life center and work out on the machines or run the trail around campus. However, I didn’t understand the importance of regular exercise for my lung health, and because of that, I didn’t make it a priority. My senior year of college, I took a weight training class which taught you how to lift weights and taught different strength building exercises. I loved the class!! Partially because I didn’t feel as “behind” as I can when I do cardio exercises (hello, low lung function). I wasn’t the strongest person in the room, but I could feel my body getting stronger every class. When I graduated from college and moved to Dallas for graduate school, my CF team emphasized exercise more than ever before, partially because the research was beginning to show how beneficial exercise was to maintaining lung function and partially because they had seen first-hand how exercise can maintain lung health. I started pushing my exercise abilities at the gym and even signed up for my first 5k in May of 2016. I wasn’t able to run the whole thing, but I was so proud when I heard my name on the speakers saying I had completely the race. 

Since my race in 2016, I have participated in 2 other 5ks. One of the 5ks, I was so sick that I had to walk the whole thing, but the other I was able to jog some of the way. One of the most frustrating things about CF and exercise is that one cold or round of IVs can set you back so much. It feels like you’re constantly starting over, which can feel disheartening. When I get frustrated with my lungs or when I just want to give up, I remind myself that because of my determination and perseverance, my lung function is so much higher and my lungs are so much more stable than they ever would have been had I not been exercising.

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A few months ago, I started attending Orange Theory classes. Orange theory is a group fitness class, with 30 minutes of cardio training and 30 minutes of weight training. Most classes, I leave feeling exhausted and breathless, but I also feel rejuvenated and proud. Regular exercise has completely changed the way I approach my CF. I would highly encourage any other person with CF to find an exercise you love, whether that be dancing, weight lifting, running, biking, and do it regularly. Even just walking around the block is a great start. Maybe get a friend or family member to join you and keep you accountable. I promise, your lungs will thank you!