Walking Abnormalities Associated with COPD

Health Professional

We know, of course, that COPD can result in life-altering changes for both patients and their caregivers. From lack of energy to difficulty breathing, COPD can make it hard to do the most basic things in daily life, particularly in the latter stages.

But a recent study has given healthcare professionals more information to work with. I thought I'd profile and discuss that study in this post.

Study Design & Summary

COPD prevents adequate oxygen from getting to all of your cells. That, along with a more sedentary lifestyle, can cause muscle weakness and loss of muscle tone. But a study published in the June 2010 edition of the Respiratory Medicine journal looked at whether there was a link between walking abnormalities and the severity of COPD.

They used an existing survey dataset that collected data from 31,000 people between years 1988 to 1994. Specifically they were looking for things like a limp, shuffling gait, etc.

Factors they examined included FEV1/FVC ratio, age, gender, BMI, and smoking status as predictors of walking abnormalities and physical activity in persons aged 40 to 90 years old.

The results suggested there is a definite link between severe COPD and mechanical walking problems.   You can read the details of the study here.

What It Means

So what does this mean to the average COPD patient and/or their caregiver? It's not surprising that when you have trouble breathing, you feel like doing less. And doing less for an extended period means your muscles get weaker. And so you feel like doing even less. It's a vicious circle. This study emphasizes that cycle is much more likely as COPD worsens in severity.

What You Can Do

So, it is important for people with COPD to stay as active as they can for as long as they can. Over time, you'll need to make changes in they type of activity and how long you do it. So maybe you can no longer walk around the block every day. But that doesn't mean you can't walk down to the corner or up and down the driveway.

If you're too weak for that kind of activity, then do some chair exercises while you read or watch television. There are many ways to keep the body moving, at least in short spurts, that will not compromise your breathing too much at one time. The key is to find the right balance for you.