Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Things That Make My Lungs Feel Awesome: Exercise

PSA: Video games will not make your lungs feel awesome.
As an "old man" with CF, I've figured out over the years what things I can do to make my lungs feel awesome and what things I can do, or not do, to make them feel eh, not so much. I realize that, as with everything with CF, some of these things will work for others while some may not. Here's what I do know, nothing changes unless something changes. So, if you see something in the coming weeks that you may want to try, give it a shot. A real shot. A real honest shot. I used to try and take shortcuts with my lungs when I was younger and it took me many years, and lots of pain, to realize that there are no shortcuts when it comes to health. Being at our best health-wise comes down to two things - good decisions and hard work.

So with that, here is probably the #1 thing that I have found make my lungs feel awesome...


You probably saw me going there. We've all heard it and we probably hear it quite a bit. But what exercise exactly? Well, the short answer is to do any exercise that you'll commit to and do consistently. For me, that has been High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). According to the ever so wise Wikipedia, HIIT is "a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning." Did you catch that? Improved athletic capacity (ie better shape, ie in general, better lungs) and improved glucose metabolism. For those of us in the CF community, that's a win-win. Now, some of you read "improved fat burning" and thought, "My doc says I cannot lose any weight!!" and therefore dismissed HIIT as an option for you. Can HIIT promote weight loss? Yup. Does it have to? Nope. If putting on weight is a struggle for you, you can safely do HIIT but you must increase your calories. You must eat before your workout, to give your body the energy to carry you through the workout (and not burn your fat in the process) and you must eat after your workout (to aid in the recovery process and not allow your body to use its fat stores). It absolutely can be done. And, if you want an even better shot at maintaining, or even gaining weight after including some HIIT into your routine, may I suggest that you add a weight lifting routine to your schedule as well.  Again, you must eat right to take full advantage of your hard work, but it can be done! 

And back to the lungs, HIIT (or other cardio exercise) is like doing an albutertol treatment at the gym. I was actually in a study that showed this was the case. Exercise opened up the airways, and kept them open for an extended period of time. Plus, doesn't it just come back to the old tried and true phrase "if you don't use it, you lose it"? If you don't use your lung (function), you'll lose your lung function. I like to think of my lungs as a muscle I'm working out just as I would workout my chest, biceps or legs. Instead of lifting weights to work out my lungs, I'm taking deep breaths. I'm coughing. I'm pulling for air (in a good way of course!).

The hardest thing about exercise is getting starting. Most people I talk to (CF or not) don't exercise for two main reasons: time and knowledge.

This just made me laugh.
I don't think I've ever met a person who thinks they have a lot of time to spare. It's in our human nature to always feel busy...even if we're not. The bottom line is we all make time for things that are important to us. I have not been writing in this blog consistently for much of 2014. Reason? I have felt like I've had no time to devote to writing. I've felt pulled in a million different directions and didn't think I had any time to spend on RSBR. The truth, I have been busy, but I've been devoting my time to things that I either felt were more important, have the potential to have a greater impact on the CF community or things that I enjoy more. So I've had plenty of time, it's just been focused on other things. (Note: One of those is exercise which I devote about 2 hours a day to). To make time for exercise, it must be important to you. You need to find some kind of external or internal motivation for doing it and doing it consistently. If I gave you 1 million dollars to exercise daily, would you do it? Of course! You'd make the time no matter what! Unfortunately, I can't pay you to exercise (I wish I could), but I would argue that better health is worth a lot more than 1 million dollars (to me anyhow!!).

Ask Unknown Cystic if he thinks it was worth making the sacrifice to exercise every day. He works A LOT and didn't think he'd have anytime to fit exercise into his life. What did he do? He got creative! I believe they call that "if there's a will there's a way". He decided that if he was going to be working, then he'd be walking too. Check out the results he's had after walking on a treadmill during his working hours for the past year: One Year of Using a Treadmill Desk. The proof is in the pudding.

I understand that many of us can't afford a treadmill in our home, but don't let that be your reason for dismissing his story. The point isn't that we all must walk while we're working, the point is that we all must just do something. Commit. To. ANYTHING. Active.

Forgive me if I'm making it sound too easy, but in reality, it can be. It's just a matter of making it a priority and doing it. Don't have 1 hour a day, how about 10 minutes? Is 10 minutes an optimal amount of time for exercise? Nope. Is it more optimal than 0 minutes? Absolutely!

How can you get started? I'm glad you asked. Pick a time today that you're going to do something active and commit to doing it. Reading this really late at night? Pick a time tomorrow. How much time? At least 10 minutes and no more than 45 minutes. What's active? Anything that makes it harder for you to breathe as a result of exerting effort. That could be from sitting up and down on your couch multiple times to running 5 miles. Whatever it is, if you did nothing so far today that could be considered active, you'll already be two-steps of today, tomorrow (or later today!). 

This is all about improving yourself. Not being better than anyone else, just a better version of yourself. You can do it, just take the first step...of many, many steps.

Need help? Just ask. You can leave a comment here or find me on CysticLife.

If you want to get involved in the conversation, use #awesomelungs on Twitter and tweet @ me yo!! I'd love to link to any blog you write about what you do to make your lungs feel awesome. Send me a link to your blog so I can share it!!

I won't guarantee that it will be fun, but it will be worth it!!