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Med Clin North Am. 2012 Jul;96(4):753-66. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2012.05.004.

Role of exercise in testing and in therapy of COPD.

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Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The stair-climbing test, 6MWT, and shuttle test are exercise tests that requires less technical support than the CPET and are more available to any physician. The 6MWT is the simplest and most likely to be cost effective, as it provides useful information regarding prognosis, ADLs, and health care use at a very low cost. In addition, the 6MWT can be used to evaluate response to several interventions, including physical rehabilitation, medications, lung volume reduction interventions, and transplantation. The 6MWT has also been useful in and has become an integral part of the evaluation and response to treatment in other medical conditions, including congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary fibrosis. The stair-climbing test seems to be most useful for preoperative evaluations when a CPET is not available. We have also used it on patients unable to perform a good CPET because of lack of familiarity with bicycle pedaling. The shuttle walk test may be used to better determine a maximal exercise capacity when a CPET is not available and to measure the effects of pulmonary rehabilitation in patients unfamiliar with a CPET. The role of exercise as a therapeutic tool is central to the concept of pulmonary rehabilitation. Exercise training improves not only functional dyspnea and health-related quality of life, but also has been shown to decrease health care resource use. As part of a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation initiated after a hospitalization for exacerbation, it has been shown to decrease readmission rates.

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