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Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2012;7:743-55. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S35497. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

Physical inactivity in COPD and increased patient perception of dyspnea.

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Clinical Research Unit for Pulmonary Diseases and Division of Pulmonology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, and Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland.



To study patients' levels of exercise activity and the clinical characteristics that relate to physical activity and inactivity among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


A postal questionnaire was administered to 719 patients with COPD in 2010; patients were recruited from the Helsinki and Turku University Central Hospitals in Finland and have been followed since 2005. The questionnaire asked participants about their exercise routines and other daily activities, potential restrictions to exercise, health-related quality of life, and subjective sensations of dyspnea upon exertion.


A total of 50% of the participants reported exercising>2 times a week throughout the year. The proportion of the exercise inactive patients increased in parallel with disease progression, but the participants exhibited great variation in the degree of activity as well as in sport choices. Year-round activity was better maintained among patients who exercised both indoors and outdoors. Training activity was significantly correlated with patients' reported subjective dyspnea (r=0.32, P<0.001), health-related quality of life (r=0.25, P<0.001), mobility score (r=0.37, P<0.001), and bronchial obstruction (r=0.18, P<0.001). Active patients did not differ from inactive patients in terms of sex, age, smoking status, somatic comorbidities, or body mass index. Irrespective of the level of severity of patients' COPD, the most significant barrier to exercising was the subjective sensation of dyspnea.


When a patient with COPD suffers from dyspnea and does not have regular exercise routines, the patient will most likely benefit from an exercise program tailored to his or her physical capabilities.


COPD; exercise training; physical activity; physical fitness; pulmonary rehabilitation

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