Why Strength Training Could Add Years to a Teenager Fighting Cystic Fibrosis

Mar 4, 2019 | Blog

  The recommended time frame in which a teenager should start some form of weight training is dependent on multiple factors such as, age and maturation. It is not uncommon to see a lot of teenagers introduced to weight training during their freshmen year of high school in PE and/or during a high school sport. This is where most teenagers start to learn the basics of weight lifting. I believe this is an important transition in a teenager’s life, with maturation and independency growing during these years. Teaching a teenager the basic fundamentals of weight lifting and strength creates an increased sense of strength and stability to build off of both mentally and physically. Introducing a teenager to lifting weights could add years to their lives.  I believe every teenager should do some form of weight lifting, but I truly believe that lifting weights is an outlet to add years to a teenager’s life who is battling a pulmonary disease like cystic fibrosis.

The Science

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          The impact lifting weights has on teenagers and young adults during and after exercise has been highly researched in healthy individuals and is starting to gain ground in the CF community. Lifting weights has shown to improve mental health, increase skeletal muscle mass, and increase cardiovascular endurance in teenagers. Three very important factors that play a role in the decline of individuals with cystic fibrosis. Not because individuals with CF don’t have the capacity, but because they have been battling a genetic anomaly from birth and that keeps the internal systems on a higher alter causing an increase in the frequency of stress responses within the body. Introducing a teenager with CF to weight training could increase their strength and endurance capacity to fight, directly improving their strength and endurance, which has a direct role in lung function.

          Resistance training increases neuromuscular adaptive changes in skeletal muscle and changes neuromuscular function. These adaptive changes in skeletal neuromuscular function have been linked to increased maximal contractile muscle force and power output in both children and adults. Strength training not only improves mechanical muscle function, it also increases motor unit recruitment, which increases frequency excitability, connective tissue strength and proprioceptive awareness.

Why This Matters

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The diaphragm muscle is the primary respiratory muscle in breathing, and it is also a skeletal muscle which means weight lifting can improve respiratory muscle strength. Increasing core strength gives the respiratory system a higher potential to generate force and power to increase oxygen consumption. skeletal muscle strength also improves joint movement. Improved joint movement decreases stress on the body and ultimately decreases the stress placed upon the lungs and heart. Research has shown that increasing overall strength can directly improve cardiovascular endurance.

            Research has shown that resistance training improves strength and improving strength in CF is extremely important as a child gets older. Hussey, Gormley, Leen, and Greally (2002) investigated peripheral muscle strength in young males with cystic fibrosis and found a correlation with decreased FEV1 values and knee muscle strength and shoulder flexion strength at 90°/s in the subjects with CF  (13 subjects) compared to the controlled group. Muscular strength plays an important role in cystic fibrosis. Van Iterson et al. (2016) found a significant relationship with FVC and FEV1 in exercise duration and peak workload in young adults with CF. Exercise duration and peak workload are a combination of strength and endurance. The integration of a weight lifting program at a proper age to a teenager with CF could change this and add years to their life.

             It doesn’t have to start in the weight room, and I believe it shouldn’t start there. Every kid should start with body weight push-ups, planks, squats, lunges, hip hinging, chin ups, and crawling and rolling on the ground. Body weight training starts when a kid is born. As a child grows and develops, his/her strength should grow with it well into the teenager years. After body weight training, comes the introduction to external loads such as dumbbells and barbells. Each child is different and their journey to lifting is never the same, but every young adult with CF should be exploring resistance training and/or weight lifting. There are just too many positives that come along with getting the mind and body stronger.

Reference

Hussey, J., Gormley, G., Leen, G., & Greally, P. (2002). Peripheral muscle strength in young males with cystic fibrosis. Journal of Cystic Fibrosis.

Van Iterson, E. H., Wheatley, C. M., Baker, S. E., Morgan, W. J., & Snyder, E. M. (2016). The relationship between cardiac hemodynamics and exercise tolerance in cystic fibrosis. Heart & lung: the journal of critical care45(3), 283-90.

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