Pushing the envelope promising for patients


A HUNTER-based fitness study looking at the effects of interval training on children with cystic fibrosis is achieving some “outstanding” results, a local exercise physiologist says.

Ryan McCathie said the 13-week program, a collaboration with John Hunter Children’s Hospital and Cystic Fibrosis NSW, looked at whether high intensity interval training could benefit cystic fibrosis sufferers.

“We’ve seen some amazing results already,” he said.

“In the past, the general guidelines for people with cystic fibrosis were just ‘exercise for 30 minutes a day’, with the advice to do more slow, steady exercise.

“We’re doing interval training, so going at 100 per cent for a short period of time, then having a short rest period.”

Mr McCathie, of Hunter Rehabilitation and Health, said he monitored the participant’s oxygen levels throughout the sessions.

“A lot of parents have felt a bit worried about pushing them to that extra level, but what it’s shown is that pushing them to that 100 per cent effort for a short period of time not only improves their fitness, but improves their airway clearance as well,” he said.

“Doing these intervals, they are finding it much easier to clear their lungs and cough up the mucus and phlegm.

“Because it’s in a safe environment, we can really push them further than what they are used to.”

Lizzie Walters, 13, has been participating in the exercise project since it began.

She would love to be able to do cartwheels with her friends. Since building up her upper body strength through the program, it now seems possible.

Her mother, Joanne Walters, said her daughter’s fitness and self-confidence had improved, as well as her oxygen levels.

“She is fitter, she is stronger, she has more energy,” Ms Walters said.

“Even in school in PE, and things like that, she’s been happy to participate. She’s been able to do more physical exercise at school, and keep up with her friends a bit more without coughing as much.

“Her oxygen levels have been higher, and they are not dropping as much during exercise, or overnight.”

Mr McCathie said the program participants underwent clinical testing at John Hunter Children’s Hospital before the project to get baseline data. They would be re-tested at the end of the trial.

Those results would be complemented by functional fitness testing within the gym at different stages.

“At the six-week test we saw huge increases in all aspects – their strength, their endurance, across the board,” he said.

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