Short term studies of exercise training have shown benefits in cystic fibrosis. Transferring exercise programmes to the community and sustaining them long term is a challenge for the patient. The effectiveness of an individualised unsupervised home based exercise programme was examined in adults with cystic fibrosis over a 1 year period.
Subjects were randomised to undertake three sessions per week of upper and lower body exercise based on individualised preferences (n = 30) or to a control group (n = 18). They were evaluated at baseline and at 12 months. The primary outcome measure was improved fitness as assessed by change in blood lactate concentration at the end of an identical constant work rate for both arm and leg ergometric testing. Secondary outcome measurements were heart rate and pulmonary function.
For leg exercise, significant differences were seen at 12 months between the active and control groups in the mean (SE) change in blood lactate levels (-0.38 (0.23) mmol/l v 0.45 (0.25) mmol/l, p<0.05) and heart rate (-4.8 (2.5) bpm v 3.4 (2.5) bpm, p<0.05), confirming a training effect. For arm ergometry there was no change in lactate levels at 12 months but there was a significant difference in forced vital capacity (46 (72) ml v -167 (68) ml, p<0.05).
A training effect, as measured by a reduction in lactate levels and heart rate, can be achieved with unsupervised individualised home exercise in adults with cystic fibrosis. A benefit to pulmonary function was observed and together these findings suggest that exercise programmes should be encouraged as an important component of care in cystic fibrosis.