AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) Dr. Ryan Harris, a clinical exercise and vascular physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia, is now the only expert from the U.S. on a 39-member panel of international doctors studying the impact of exercise on cystic fibrosis.

Harris is the principal investigator of a five-year study on the effects of physical activity and exercise on cystic fibrosis, and he has been studying it individually for about 12 years.

We know that exercise ability predicts their longevity – their survival,” Harris said. “So we’re really trying to understand what mechanisms contribute to their inability to exercise well.”

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition – thick mucus clogs the body’s airways, which can lead to lung damage and other implications. According to the CDC, about 35,000 people in the U.S. have cystic fibrosis.

There is no cure, but Dr. Harris said people with cystic fibrosis are living longer due to medication, and that exercise could increase their lifespan as well.

“They’re starting to develop more age-related diseases, and exercise treatment can really help augment the medical therapies and help them live longer,” Harris said.

A newly published consensus from the panel and data from the study shows that exercise has beneficial impacts on various bodily functions in patients with cystic fibrosis.

“Exercise increases airway secretions, exercise increases blood vessel function, exercise increases skeletal muscle health,” Harris said. “So exercise is comprehensively great for people with CF.”

AU is home to one of only two accredited cystic fibrosis care centers in Georgia, and the only center in the region studying the impacts of exercise on cystic fibrosis.