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Exercise advice for babies and toddlers with cystic fibrosis

Physical activity is encouraged from birth. Young children aged 1 to 6 should take part in at least 60 minutes of developmentally appropriate activities throughout the day.

Children with cystic fibrosis should also do at least 1 session of structured exercise at least 15 minutes each day. This may be combined with some breathing exercises or other techniques.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise is important as it:

  • develops motor skills and cognitive development
  • helps with bone and muscle development
  • supports learning of social skills
  • it helps make sure air gets to all areas of the lungs which can help with mucus clearance

Ideas for small babies

Tummy time

Tummy time is very important for all infants. This includes anytime spent on the stomach such as rolling and playing on the floor. Children should be supervised throughout these sessions it is recommended tummy time is done regularly throughout the day.

Leg and arm exercises

It is great to do some general leg and arm exercises such as stretches, knees to chest and cycling legs.

Encourage reaching, grasping pulling and pushing and movement of head body and arms and legs during supervised floor play.

It is also good to do some play in side lying, you can use a rolled up blanket to help support a younger baby.

Gym ball exercises

You can use a gym ball to sit on and with your baby in a good supported position within your arms you can do some gentle bouncing.

As your baby gains head control you can do supported bouncing and side lying on the gym ball.


Once your baby has had all their routine vaccinations they can begin water activities such as parent and baby swim sessions.

Other things

Once your child is able to walk, they can also:

  • do active play such as hide and seek, stuck in the mud
  • run around
  • jump on a trampoline
  • ride a bike
  • dance
  • swim
  • climb
  • play skipping rope
  • play at parks and activity centres
  • children’s yoga and tumbletots
  • obstacle courses

The above are examples, the list is endless. A good resources is this NHS guide for physical activity guidelines for children

An internet search can bring up some great examples of play ideas. Please ask the cystic fibrosis physiotherapy team if you would like to arrange a 1:1 session to go through specific activity ideas for your child.

It is important to build activity and exercise into your routine. Children respond best to family activities.

This information resource is a guide only and should be used with specific individual information given to you at your clinic appointments by a physiotherapist.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: CF24

Resource Type: Article

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Elaine Edwards


Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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