COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma and is often related to smoking. Common symptoms include difficulty breathing, chronic coughing, wheezing and phlegm production and over time can prove fatal.
Regular exercise could help boost the survival of people who’ve left the hospital after being admitted following an exacerbation. The risk of hospital readmission and death is especially high after a person has been hospitalized for COPD.
“We know that physical activity can have a positive benefit for people with COPD and these findings confirm that it may reduce the risk of dying following hospitalization,” says Dr. Marilyn Moy from Harvard Medical School.
Having a difficulty to breathe often leads to a more sedentary and immobile lifestyle for patients and results in de-conditioning of multiple organ systems including the heart and muscles. It also results in a greater reliance on supplemental oxygen and medications and a general decrease in health. Improving muscle function with exercise has been demonstrated to decrease the chance of readmission to hospital. Exercise can avoid microscopic lung collapse and sedentary patients have a greater risk of developing blood clots.
Researchers in a Californian study found that those who did any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity were nearly half less likely to die in the 12 months after hospitalisation than inactive patients. Even low levels of exercise reduced the risk by over 25%. The researchers believe that tracking physical activity levels might be a good way for doctors to pinpoint those COPD patients at high risk for death after hospitalization.
According to Dr Mensch, “COPD has now joined other chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, where exercise has been shown to decrease mortality and prolong life.” This is particularly important for COPD as GPs have little to offer patients to help lower disease-linked death risk.
Another study in Australia has also shown that physical activity undertaken in small intervals spaced throughout the day can safely and markedly improve the health of people with COPD. The study established that 150 minutes of exercise per week is
most effective in reducing cardiovascular and metabolic disease, the development of cancer, and overall mortality.
Evidence shows that exercise can greatly improve the physical state and quality of life of COPD patients, reducing their breathlessness, and improving energy levels. Setting feasible exercise goals that incorporate physical activity into everyday tasks is a recommended option for COPD patients. The use of portable oxygen concentrators can help patients achieve these goals as these oxygen units allow the patients to move around with their oxygen supply whether indoors or outdoors and not be tethered to their oxygen tanks so they can move around, go for walks or exercise.
Researchers suggested that, in addition to trying to perform light exercises everyday, patients should focus on the reduction of sedentary behaviour, such as trying to spend less time sitting and taking short walks. Minor walks taken after sitting for a considerable time without breaks is highly recommended as 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.