We examined the feasibility of home-based walking training to maintain the benefits of a short-term exercise training in patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). After initial recovery from an exacerbation, 46 patients were randomized into a training and a control group, and 30 patients completed the programme (mean +/- SD FEV1, 36 +/- 7% predicted). The training group performed a 10-day walking training programme in the hospital, followed by a 6-month programme of supervised walking training at home, integrated into daily activities. The control group did not have exercise training in the hospital or at home. Until 6 months after discharge, lung function, exercise performance and symptom scores were assessed. Six-minute walking distance in the training group improved from day 1 to day 10 (P<0.001) and this effect was maintained over 6 months (P<0.001). On average, daily walking distance at home was 2308 m and walking was reported on 157 days. Quality of life (QoL) scores changed significantly over 6 months (P<0.001). The control group showed no significant changes in exercise performance or QoL scores throughout the whole study period. Therefore, (i) significant improvements in exercise performance and Chronic Respiratory Disease Questionnaire (CRQ) scores could be achieved after recovery from an exacerbation and (ii) these improvements were maintained after discharge, when supported by a home-based walking training.