Pulmonary Rehabilitation Gains

Maintaining Gains After Pulmonary Rehabilitation

In the June 2015 issue of the journal Lung, Luk and colleagues reported on the long term benefits following completion of a pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) program among 88 patients at the University of Toronto. Comparisons were made at the end of pulmonary rehabilitation and again on average 22 months later. The major findings were:
  1. There was an increase in the shuttle walking distance after PR, but the gain was lost 22 months later.
  2. All four domains of a Quality of Life measure improved after PR, but only breathlessness and fatigue domains remained significant at the long-term assessment.
  3. Anxiety improved after PR, but the change was not significant at 22 months.
Person with COPD exercising with supervision of rehabilitation coordinator

Person with COPD exercising with supervision of rehabilitation coordinator

   
Individuals at Pulmonary Rehabilitation  performing resistance training

Individuals at Pulmonary Rehabilitation performing resistance training

          The authors concluded “that many of the gains achieved with participation in pulmonary rehabilitation are lost in the longer term.” My comment: This study supports the concept that pulmonary rehabilitation is only the START of a life-long program of exercise. A maintenance program is essential so you do not lose the benefits of 6 – 8 weeks of hard work in a supervised pulmonary rehabilitation program. You should continue to exercise to not only maintain, but also to improve even more.  

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.