In most chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, dyspnoea and functional exercise capacity may improve as a result of inspiratory muscle training (IMT). However, the long-term benefits of IMT have been investigated to a much lesser extent. The present study investigated the short-term and long-term benefits of IMT on inspiratory muscle performance (strength and endurance), exercise capacity and the perception of dyspnoea. Thirty-eight patients with significant COPD had 3 months of basic IMT and were then randomised into a group that received maintenance IMT for the next year, and a group that got training with very low load. Following the basic training there was a statistically significant increase in inspiratory muscle performance, 6-min walk test (6MWT), and a decrease in the dyspnoea. During the second stage of the study, the training group continued to maintain the improvement in all parameters, while there was already deterioration in the inspiratory muscle performance, exercise capacity and dyspnoea in the low intensity group during the 6-12 month period. The present study concludes that, in patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inspiratory muscle training results in improvement in performance, exercise capacity and in the sensation of dyspnoea. The benefits of 12-weeks of inspiratory muscle training decline gradually over 1 yr of follow-up if maintenance training is not performed.