CF is a chronic genetic condition that affects your lungs, digestive system, and other organs. At-home exercise can be an excellent way to manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) can cause symptoms such as coughing, fatigue, and difficulty breathing, which may make it challenging to exercise.

However, regular exercise can help improve lung function, increase strength, and boost endurance, increasing your overall physical fitness. Exercising can also positively affect mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.

Whether you’re just starting or looking to take your fitness to the next level, this guide can help you develop an exercise routine that fits your goals and abilities.

It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercise over time. This helps ensure you can sustain your routine while preventing injury and overexertion.

Before starting an exercise program, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate type and intensity of exercise for your needs.

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, can help increase your heart rate, improve circulation, and enhance respiratory function. These activities can be an enjoyable way to incorporate physical activity into your daily life.

Start with 5-minute sessions and gradually build up the duration and intensity as you progress.

Cardio exercises that may be beneficial for people living with CF include:


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This bodyweight exercise targets your shoulders, core, and hamstrings. It also helps develop balance, stability, and strength, which can improve posture.

To do this:

  1. Start on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend your legs, lift your heels, and raise your hips to align your spine.
  3. Engage your abdominal, arm, and leg muscles to stabilize your body.
  4. Extend the back of your neck, relax your throat, and gaze toward the floor.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.

Resistance band rows

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For this exercise, you need a resistance band.

This move targets the rhomboid and trapezius muscles, helping to increase scapular stability and upper body strength.

To do this:

  1. Anchor a resistance band to a stable object, such as a door or pole.
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Hold the resistance band with both hands at or slightly below chest level.
  4. Pull the band toward your body, drawing your shoulder blades together.
  5. Maintain proper posture and alignment.
  6. Do 2–4 sets of 8–12 repetitions.

Stretching can help improve your flexibility, balance, and relaxation. These benefits can be especially useful if you experience joint stiffness and muscle tension.

Thoracic extension

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This stretch helps improve posture, promotes spinal mobility, and enhances overall flexibility. It may be especially beneficial if you spend long periods sitting or standing.

To do this:

  1. Sit on a chair or cushion.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your head.
  3. Gently arch your upper back while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  4. Create resistance by pressing your hands into your head.
  5. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.


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This yoga posture helps increase spinal flexibility and alleviates neck, shoulder, and back tension.

To do this:

  1. Start in a tabletop position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Inhale and arch your back, lowering your stomach toward the floor.
  3. Lift your head and tailbone toward the ceiling.
  4. Exhale and round your spine, tucking your chin toward your chest and drawing your navel toward your spine.
  5. Move slowly, continuing this fluid movement.
  6. Continue for up to 1 minute.

Quadriceps stretch

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This stretch targets the front of your thigh to alleviate tension and soreness. It also increases flexibility in your hips and knees.

To do this:

  1. Stand next to a wall or a chair for balance.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your buttocks.
  3. Hold onto your ankle or foot with your right hand.
  4. Extend your left arm out to the side or straight overhead.
  5. Keep your knees together in the same plane and maintain proper posture.
  6. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side.

Breathing exercises increase lung capacity, develop breath awareness, and promote relaxation. You can do them throughout the day and during activities that cause shortness of breath.

Pursed lip breathing

This breathing exercise encourages relaxation, reduces shortness of breath, and helps release air trapped in the lungs.

To do this:

  1. Sit comfortably and relax your shoulders.
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose for 2–3 seconds.
  3. Purse your lips and exhale slowly for 4–6 seconds.
  4. Continue for a few minutes.

Huff coughing

This breathing technique helps clear mucus from your airways.

To do this:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Exhale forcefully while making a “ha” sound.
  3. Repeat several times to move the mucus up to your larger airways.
  4. Continue until you huff all of the mucus out of your lungs.

Diaphragmatic breathing

This breathing exercise has a calming effect, helps to expand your lungs, and improves airflow. You can do it a few times throughout the day.

Pay attention to the sensation of your breath and the movement of your hands as you breathe, and use the following steps:

  1. Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees.
  2. To alleviate low back pain, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  4. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to expand with air.
  5. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, drawing your abdomen in toward your spine.
  6. Continue for up to 5 minutes.

Although CF is a chronic condition, incorporating at-home exercises into your daily routine can help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being. They can offer a safe, convenient way to get regular physical activity and live a healthier, more active life.

Research from 2018 suggests exercise can improve lung function, exercise capacity, and quality of life in people living with CF.

Exercise and breathing techniques can help clear mucus from your lungs, reducing the risk of lung infections and respiratory complications.

According to 2020 research, exercise is an effective airway clearance technique and helps remove mucosal cilia.

According to the U.K. Cystic Fibrosis Trust, for people with CF, exercise can also improve:

Home exercises can be a powerful tool to help manage CF symptoms, reduce the risk of complications, and improve overall well-being. Exercise may help improve lung function, build muscle strength, and enhance physical fitness so you can live a healthier, more active life.

Consult with a healthcare professional or an exercise professional before starting any exercise program. They can guide you to help you develop a safe and effective exercise routine for your individual needs.