Physical Activity in COPD is Associated with Grandparenting and Dog Walking

Greater Physical Activity in COPD Related to Grandparenting and Dog Walking 

Background: There is less physical activity in COPD than others of similar age who are healthy. There are many reasons for this including shortness of breathing with activities, muscle weakness, other medical problems, and behavioral changes. However, being physically active in COPD is critical for a good quality of life and overall health. Although participation in a pulmonary rehabilitation program is recommended for all patients with COPD, this is not always possible for a variety of reasons. Study: Investigators in Spain wanted to find out what socio-environmental factors were related to the amount and intensity of physical activity in COPD. A total of 410 patients with COPD answered questions and wore an activity monitor for one week. Other factors considered were outdoor green (parks, forests, agricultural land, and pastures) and blue (water bodies) areas. The findings were published on-line on March 1, 2017, in the journal Thorax. Grandparenting associated with greater physical activity in COPDResults: All participants lived in a seaside community in Catalonia that included Barcelona. 85% of the patients were men; the average age was 69 years. Average lung function was 56 percent of predicted. After adjusting for age and socio-economic status, both grandparenting (being active with grandchildren) and dog walking were significantly associated with an increase in time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Being close to green and blue areas was not associated with physical activity.Woman walking a dog - greater physical activity Conclusions: The authors concluded that grandparenting and dog walking are associated with a greater amount and intensity of physical activity. My Comments: Grandparents typically want to “do things” with their grandchildren simply because it is fun and provides meaning in their lives. In fact, patients with COPD report that caring for their grandchildren is a motivator to participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program (British Journal of General Practice; 2008; volume 58; pages 703-710).  Likewise, having a dog is enjoyable and requires going for walks or taking the dog to a park for exercise. The overall message of this study is “be active.”  

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.