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Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011 Jul;36 Suppl 1:S80-100. doi: 10.1139/h11-057.

Evidence-based risk assessment and recommendations for physical activity clearance: respiratory disease.

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Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.


The 2 most common respiratory diseases are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Growing evidence supports the benefits of exercise for all patients with these diseases. Due to the etiology of COPD and the pathophysiology of asthma, there may be some additional risks of exercise for these patients, and hence accurate risk assessment and clearance is needed before patients start exercising. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the available literature regarding the risks of exercise for patients with respiratory disease and provide evidence-based recommendations to guide the screening process. A systematic review of 4 databases was performed. The literature was searched to identify adverse events specific to exercise. For COPD, 102 randomized controlled trials that involved an exercise intervention were included (n = 6938). No study directly assessed the risk of exercise, and only 15 commented on exercise-related adverse events. For asthma, 30 studies of mixed methodologies were included (n = 1278). One study directly assessed the risk of exercise, and 15 commented on exercise-related adverse events. No exercise-related fatalities were reported. The majority of adverse events in COPD patients were musculoskeletal or cardiovascular in nature. In asthma patients, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction and (or) asthma symptoms were the primary adverse events. There is no direct evidence regarding the risk of exercise for patients with COPD or asthma. However, based on the available literature, it would appear that with adequate screening and optimal medical therapy, the risk of exercise for these respiratory patients is low.

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