People with lung disease are advised to do short workouts throughout the day so as to maximize their capacity for physical activity, according to a recent review of studies on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The review of published studies included researchers from Curtin University, University of Western Australia and The University of Queensland, all in Australia. The studies were focused on lung disease, health behavior change, physical activity and sedentary behavior, and highlighted that performing 150 minutes of exercise weekly can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic disease, some cancers, and all-cause mortality.
However, this amount of exercise is often unattainable for people with COPD, Dr. Kylie Hill from Curtin University, the review’s senior author, said in a news release.
COPD, a type of obstructive lung disease that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma, is characterized by chronically poor airflow. The main COPD symptoms are shortness of breath and cough, with sputum production.
“There is strong evidence that exercise, in the long run, will absolutely help people with COPD to reduce their breathlessness, improve their energy levels, increase their exercise capacity and help with their quality of life,” said Dr. Hill. “However, asking people with COPD to walk at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes most days is a tall order.”
In Australia, about one in every 13 people has lung disease, with symptoms such as breathlessness that makes any kind of exertion difficult. Dr. Hill pointed out that this is the reason why patients should incorporate mild physical activity into their daily routines, and reduce their overall sedentary behavior.
“In addition to trying to do some exercise regularly, it is important for people with COPD to try and sit less,” she said. “This will be a useful approach to reduce their risk of developing a disease in their heart or blood vessels, especially because it is so difficult for them to increase their physical activity.”
Easy fitness approaches could be as simple as going for a short stroll if patients have been sitting for a long time. “For people with severe disease, simple goals like this may be a more realistic place to start that trying to go for a 30 minute walk each day,” she added.
Dr. Hill also advises that patients who have severe shortness of breath consider undergoing a program of pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs can include supervised walk training and cycle-based exercises.