A renowned team of international specialists at the University of Exeter in England was awarded a grant of £750,000 from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to develop an inclusive strategy to allow young people who live with cystic fibrosis to access personalized activity and exercise regimes.
The team will be involved in a groundbreaking research center that will aid health professionals design tailored physical activity and exercise plans suited for cystic fibrosis patients.
Cystic fibrosis currently has no cure, although a series of treatments exists to help manage disease symptoms, like physiotherapy, physical activity, and some kinds of exercise – which, however, have no definitive guidelines, which makes these very dependent on the expertise of the healthcare specialist or therapist.
At the research center, the team of experts will work with Prof. Craig Williams and Dr. Alan Barker, both from Exeter’s Sport and Health Sciences department, to develop recommendations and guidelines to help healthcare professionals determine the right mix of activity and exercise that should be most beneficial depending on the patient.
“Adolescence is characterized by a marked decline in physical activity participation, particularly in girls, and is known to track into adulthood. This reduction can have long-term consequences for people with cystic fibrosis, including reduced lung function, health-related quality of life, and aerobic fitness, which is a key predictor of patient mortality. We know that the promotion of physical activity and more formal exercise training are two ways in which people with cystic fibrosis can manage their condition, but they are still often underutilized,” Williams, a pediatric physiology specialist and director of Exeter’s Children’s Health and Exercise Research Center, said in a press release.
“The difficulty can be that while each individual will need different levels of exercise, it is not always easy to recommend what that will be. This center has some of the world’s leading experts in the field and will help clinicians determine what the type and in what context activity and exercise can be recommended. We are confident that this research will fill in some of the gaps that exist in treating cystic fibrosis, and so have a truly positive impact on the day-to-day quality of life of so many people,” Williams said.
Keith Brownlee, director of impact at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, stressed that physical activity has important clinical benefits for cystic fibrosis, “including improved lung function, aerobic fitness, and lung clearance. It also brings psychological and social benefits, such as improved self-confidence, socialization, and self-esteem.”
“Despite this knowledge, there is limited evidence in this area, and as such, we’re delighted to offer the University of Exeter this grant to explore the benefits of activity further and look forward to sharing the results,” Brownlee said.
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening disease caused by a mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, which leads to an unbalanced movement of salt and water in and around cells. This eventually causes mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system, causing a range of challenging symptoms in the health and lives of patients.
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