Tuesday 24 February 2015

Moving Mountains - “Making the impossible possible with exercise”

Last Friday saw Churchill College, University of Cambridge, host the Moving Mountains conference on how sport and exercise can benefit those with long-term health conditions, such as cystic fibrosis.

Our own, Paul Rymer, Head of Principal Involvement attended from the Trust and has given us a flavour of the informative, interesting and exciting events there

In the next year fitness and sport will be an increasing focus for the Trust. Last week I attended a conference highlighting the benefits of exercise, including better mental health, less reliance on drugs, and increased feelings of confidence and social inclusion.

The event was organised by Dr Jonathan King, who has CF, in partnership with others living with chronic conditions.

Jonathan used a slide presentation and props (bottles of water) to engagingly describe lung function, his treatment regime, what happened when things went badly wrong during a holiday, and then the months of recovery. With persistence, and support from his care team, Jonathan managed to avoid a lung transplant by gradually improving his lung function though exercise. At first he could barely move, but over a period of months he gradually increased his physical activity, from walking a few steps, to trying a treadmill, to jogging and then to running 4K. Jonathan now uses regular exercise to maintain his health. His next endeavour is to cycle 1,200 miles from London to Barcelona in support of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Nick Talbot gave an extremely funny account first of his experience as a young man with CF, including dating, relationships and work. He then shared his experiences climbing mountains in the Himalayas, and the challenges of doing that with cystic fibrosis. Where Jonathan’s story was one of survival against the odds, Nick’s was an example of someone not accepting the perceived limitations of cystic fibrosis. Nick is aiming to climb Everest in support of the Trust in April–May.

Charlotte Wells, a specialist respiratory physiotherapist, talked engagingly about her experience working with CF patients, and the benefits of exercise from a clinical perspective.

Because of the risk of cross-infection, Jonathan spoke before a break time, and stayed in one area of the large venue, while Nick arrived later on, and aside from when he was speaking, remained at the back of the audience. At one point they were both in the venue, but at the widest possible distance (and it was a very large theatre). They then spoke through microphones asking each other questions. This really brought home one of the saddest aspects of living with cystic fibrosis – people unable to meet in person and share ideas, jokes and experiences.

Following the conference there was a drinks reception with special guest of honour Professor Stephen Hawking, who kindly posed with Nick and a Trust banner. In a short speech, Professor Hawking said: “You have to live life to the full. I am very aware of the preciousness of time, act now however difficult life may be there is always something you can do, be brave overcome the odds, it can be done.”.

If you have an interest in exercise, fitness or sport and would like to join me in exploring how the Trust can do more in this area, please email me at paul.rymer@cysticfibrosis.org.uk.

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