Purpose: To compare the effects of short-term (3 months) and long-term (18 months) involvement in an exercise program on self-reported disability and physical function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: A total of 140 patients with COPD were studied in a randomized, single-blinded clinical trial. Self-reported disability and physical function were assessed using a 21-item questionnaire, a 6-minute walk, timed stair climb, and an overhead task.
Results: At the completion of the trial, participants in the long-term intervention reported 12% less disability than those in the short-term intervention (adjusted mean with 95% confidence interval, 1.53 (1.43-1.63) versus 1.71 (1.61 to 1.81) units, respectively; P=.016), walked 6% farther during 6-minutes (1,815.0 [1,750.4-1,879.6] vs 1,711.5 [1,640.7-1,782.3] feet, respectively), climbed steps 11% faster (11.6 [11.0-12.2] vs 12.9 [12.3-13.5] seconds, respectively), and completed an overhead task 8% faster (46.8 [44.4-49.2] vs 50.4 [47.8-53.0] seconds, respectively) than those in the short-term intervention.
Conclusion: An 18 month exercise program results in greater improvements in self-reported disability and physical function in patients with COPD when compared with a 3-month exercise program. As such, long-term exercise should be recommended for all patients with COPD.