Physical Activity Reduces Risk of Death in COPD

150 Minutes or More of Physical Activity per Week Lowers Risk of Death by 47% in the Year Following Hospitalization

Study: Dr. Nguyen analyzed the risk of dying among those with COPD who were hospitalized for a worsening of breathing symptoms (called an exacerbation). The study included 2,370 individuals (55% were female; average age = 73 years) hospitalized at one of 14 hospitals in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health system.  Patients were hospitalized between January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2011.  Each person provided an estimate of physical activity in minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. Patients were then categorized as: Inactive – 0 minutes per week; Insufficiency Active – 1 – 149 minutes per week;  Active – 150 or more minutes per week                                                                                                                                                                            
Seniors participating in physical activity such as walking, biking, and swimming

Seniors Exercising

Results: The study was published online in the European Respiratory Journal Open Research on  March 16, 2016. ♦ 73% were inactive; 17% were insufficiently active; and 10% were active. There were a total of 464 deaths (20%) in the year following hospitalization. ♦ Those who were active had a 47% lower risk of death in the 12 months compared with inactive patients. ♦ Other lifestyle factors such as active cigarette smoking, failure to participate in pulmonary rehabilitation, and poor nutrition also predicted the risk of death. My Comments:  It may take weeks to a few months for some to recover from a flare-up of COPD that is severe enough to require hospitalization. However, once you are feeling better, it is important to gradually increase activities to regain fitness.  The good news of this study is that those who pursue an active life style that includes 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity have a reduced risk of dying.  This translates into 30 minutes five times a week and allows for 2 days a week for rest and recovery.
Physical Activity includes Water Aerobics

Seniors doing Water Aerobics

Moderate to vigorous activities may include brisk walking, riding a stationary cycle, water exercises, and any other things that you like to do. Doing different activities provides variety.   For many, participation in a pulmonary rehabilitation program is the best way to achieve the target of 150 minutes of activity each week.  

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.