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A walk a day can keep COPD patients out of the hospital
A new study published in the journal Respirology shows that walking 3-6 km per day significantly reduced the risk of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) being hospitalised for exacerbations of their COPD. This is another demonstration of the benefits of even moderate physical activity for health.

COPD is a distressing respiratory condition resulting from long-term lung damage, for example due to cigarette smoking. The term includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD patients eventually develop breathing difficulties and if symptoms become severe (eCOPD) can suddenly lose lung function altogether, which is life-threatening.

In the Respirology study, five hundred forty-three ambulatory clinic patients being treated for COPD were identified from five Spanish respiratory clinics. Subjects were included who were followed up for at least two years after study enrolment. The researchers monitored the patients’ exercise levels based on the distance they walked during the course of a week. They then matched this information to records on the database of Bilbao’s Hospital Galdakao-Usansolo to determine which patients were hospitalised due to eCOPD.

The results of the study showed that patients with a lower level of physical activity had an increased risk of being hospitalised for eCOPD, while patients who had the highest level of physical activity then decreased their physical activity in the follow-up also had an increasing rate of hospitalisations. Increasing physical activity to a higher level or maintaining a moderate or high level of physical activity over time, for example with low intensity activity such as walking for at least 3–6 km/day, reduced the rate of hospitalisations for eCOPD.

The lead author on the study, Dr. Cristóbal Esteban, concluded: “COPD patients are less likely to engage in regular physical activity than healthy individuals. However, regular exercise has been associated with reduced risk of hospitalization for exacerbated COPD and mortality among patients with COPD….Indeed, even a low level of physical activity such as walking a minimum of 2 hours per week has been associated with decreased risk of hospitalization for exacerbated COPD.”

Sources [Accessed 18 February 2014].

ESTEBAN, C., AROSTEGUI, I., ABURTO, M., MORAZA, J., QUINTANA, J. M., AIZPIRI, S., BASUALDO, L. V. and CAPELASTEGUI, A., 2014. Influence of changes in physical activity on frequency of hospitalization in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Respirology. doi: 10.1111/resp.12239
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