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Relieving Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis with Exercise

Relieving Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis with Exercise
From News Medical - December 14, 2017

An interview with Pamela Scarborough, conducted by James Ives, MPsych

Please give an overview of the role of exercise in cystic fibrosis (CF)

We know that exercise is beneficial in helping someone to maintain their lung function, stay strong and active and maintain a good quality of life. We also know that exercise can complement airway clearance techniquesbreathing exercises prescribed by physiotherapists to help clear the lungs of mucus.

As well as benefitting lung function, exercise can help to address other complications of CF such as low bone mineral density, CF-related diabetes, low back pain, postural problems and stress incontinence.

Then, there are many other wonderful benefits such as improved mood and sleep, which is important for someone with a life-limiting condition.

Without exercise, what other methods are used to help CF patients clear the mucous that builds up in their lungs?

As physios, we use a wide range of approaches. The traditional methods that people associate with CF physio are postural drainage, percussion and active cycle breathing techniquesdeep breathing exercises to open up the airways of the lungs in order to get behind sputum and get it moving so that it can be cleared with a huff or a cough.

However, we are increasingly using other techniques, for example, oscillatory devices such as a flutter or an acapella; positive expiratory pressure devices such as the Pari PEP; or different breathing exercises such as autogenic drainage. There is also a high-frequency chest wall oscillating vest, which is like a life jacket that vibrates. The aim of all physio techniques is to open up the airways, loosen the mucus, and make it easier to clear.

How important do you think physiotherapy is for people with CF? How prevalent is exercise therapy in CF treatment?

Physio is a cornerstone of CF care and has always been recognized as having a very important role to play. Even from point of diagnosis, when a child may be asymptomatic with their chest, their parents are still taught to engage them in exercise and to get them moving around to make sure they are maximizing ventilation of the lungs and helping to move any sputum that's there.

The wide-ranging benefits of exercise on health are continuing to emerge. Throughout my professional career, I have seen people who have come from active families and the fitter they were when they were younger, the better outcome they have later down the line; they are still functioning at a higher level because they had that training in their younger years.

People are seeing exercise as another way to help control their health, and it is also something that's more normal to do and that they can do socially with their peers. Someone with CF often has a huge amount of treatment to undertake, a lot of which can be unpleasant, so exercise can be preferable as it is something that can be enjoyable. Every time we see a patient, we ask them about what they are managing to do from an exercise point of view.

What are the main differences between workouts that are specifically designed for CF patients, as opposed to just standard workout routines?

We do not know exactly how exercise programmes for someone with CF should vary from the normal population; we still need more research to prove thisso what we are saying is that people with CF should be doing the same amount of cardiovascular exercise and strength and conditioning training as recommended in the national guidelines for the healthy population.

However, because of the factors I mentioned beforethat people with CF are very likely to suffer from postural problems, low back pain, stress incontinence and low bone mineral density, etcphysios prescribe exercise programs that make sure were addressing these issues before they become a problem, or if they are a problem, that the need is met.

Why is it important to have a personalized exercise routine and what range of exercise routines are available on Pactster?

It is important to have a personalized exercise regime because we are all different; we all have different interests and we all have different needs. There is a lot of pressure on people with CF to exercise for health benefits, so we must find a way to make it enjoyable and effective for them. We need to have exercise that is engaging and does not just feel like treatment. It needs to feel like it is going to be fun, as well as meeting the patients needs and be easy to integrate into a daily routine.

With a lot of the workouts we have on Pactster, we have really tried to normalize exercise. We know that exercise is medicine, but we want it to be something fun and normal that everybody does. We have used physios and people with CF who are qualified fitness instructors as instructors in the videos; but we film the videos out of the hospital setting, in normal clothes and cover popular exercise disciplines such as yoga, mixed martial arts, pilates, circuits and high-intensity interval training. We are creating more videos to cater for people of different ages and interests, and throughout different stages of the disease.

We are hoping that Pactster will overcome the usual barriers that put people off exercising, like lack of time and money, but that it will also make exercise easier for people who may struggle with low mood, find it hard to get out of the house because they are dependent on oxygen or equipment, have a compromised immune system or who may be too self-conscious to go to the gym. Some people with CF find group classes embarrassing because people may turn and look at them if they start coughing.

Pactster has been designed to overcome these barriers, so that people can gain confidence exercising in their home environments and be reassured that they are exercising in a safe way, supported by someone who understands their condition.

Zelda and Leah, two CF physios from The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust

Please give an overview of Pactster and the unique features that you bring to CF physiotherapy?

Pactster offers health-specific exercise videos filmed with specialist instructors alongside community and motivational support. Our exercise videos have been filmed with CF physiotherapists and people with CF who are qualified instructors; and have been approved by the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Cystic Fibrosis.

We want people to be inspired by seeing someone with the same condition as them on screen, sharing their knowledge of how to use exercise to take control of their disease.

Are there any limitations to the workouts? Do they need specific equipment? I am guessing these are all open access to all CF patients?

Is it also open access to patients outside of the UK?

Will you expand the exercise routines and physiotherapy for other conditions in the future or are you focusing primarily on CF?

What would you like to see as the future of physiotherapy treatment for CF patients, both in the UK and globally?

Where can readers find more information?

About Pamela Scarborough

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