Background: Information about the influence of regular physical activity on the course of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is scarce. A study was undertaken to examine the association between regular physical activity and both hospital admissions for COPD and all-cause and specific mortality in COPD subjects.
Methods: From a population-based sample recruited in Copenhagen in 1981-3 and 1991-4, 2386 individuals with COPD (according to lung function tests) were identified and followed until 2000. Self-reported regular physical activity at baseline was classified into four categories (very low, low, moderate, and high). Dates and causes of hospital admissions and mortality were obtained from Danish registers. Adjusted associations between physical activity and hospital admissions for COPD and mortality were obtained using negative binomial and Cox regression models, respectively.
Results: After adjustment for relevant confounders, subjects reporting low, moderate or high physical activity had a lower risk of hospital admission for COPD during the follow up period than those who reported very low physical activity (incidence rate ratio 0.72, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53 to 0.97). Low, moderate and high levels of regular physical activity were associated with an adjusted lower risk of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio (HR) 0.76, 95% CI 0.65 to 0.90) and respiratory mortality (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.02). No effect modification was found for sex, age group, COPD severity, or a background of ischaemic heart disease.
Conclusions: Subjects with COPD who perform some level of regular physical activity have a lower risk of both COPD admissions and mortality. The recommendation that COPD patients be encouraged to maintain or increase their levels of regular physical activity should be considered in future COPD guidelines, since it is likely to result in a relevant public health benefit.