Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects various structural and functional domains in the lungs. It also has significant extrapulmonary effects, the so-called systemic effects of COPD. Weight loss, nutritional abnormalities, and skeletal muscle dysfunction are well-recognized systemic effects of COPD. Other less well-known but potentially important systemic effects include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and several neurologic and skeletal defects. The mechanisms underlying these systemic effects are unclear, but they are probably interrelated and multifactorial, including inactivity, systemic inflammation, tissue hypoxia and oxidative stress among others. These systemic effects add to the respiratory morbidity produced by the underlying pulmonary disease and should be considered in the clinical assessment as well as the treatment of affected patients.