Having a chronic illness such as COPD, especially in the later stages, as it progresses, can often limit your ability to be active. You are battling fatigue, shortness of breath and perhaps even depression. But a recent study finds that even people who are mostly homebound can benefit greatly from both cardio type exercise and strength training.
This study, published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, was small, looking at only 41 homebound patients who had COPD. Still, the findings were significant and will hopefully soon be replicated in larger, more extensive research.
The study attempted to compare the relative benefits in quality of life in COPD patients who added either aerobic conditioning, such as walking, or functional strength training. For the purposes of this study, quality of life was measured by the following factors:
- Dyspnea, which is the medical term for shortness of breath
- Distance able to walk comfortably
What the study found was that participants in both groups showed significant improvements in these quality of life measures. 80% of the people who had added aerobic exercise had improvements in their dyspnea. Their depression scores also improved, as did their walking distances.
71% of the people who'd added strength training also had improvements in their dyspnea, as well as their depression scores. This group did not show the same improvements in walking distance, but it's important to note that there are many other benefits to be gained from strength training that were not specifically examined in this study, such as:
- Improved balance (which can decrease the risk for falls)
- Better muscle tone and ability to do activities of daily living
- Decreased bone loss and osteoporosis
So What Does This Mean For You?
If you are already trying to stay active, good for you! If you have given in to your disease and accepted a more sedentary lifestyle, take a second look at what you are really able to do. Start your own home activity program, perhaps by walking around your house for 5 minutes every hour... or out to the end of your driveway a few times a day. If you have a home treadmill or stationary bike, get on and use this equipment, gradually increasing your time as you build your tolerance.
Or, you may even want to talk with your doctor about prescribing some pulmonary rehabilitation at a local gym, physical therapy provider, etc. Or, if you are truly homebound, a physical therapist can sometimes come to your home for a short period to teach you about rehab. Not only can one of these experts help you with aerobic exercise, they can also get you started with functional strength training.
Any gains you make from these efforts will certainly improve your quality of life!
Published On: February 14, 2013