Extrapulmonary pathology significantly impairs clinical outcome in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are implicated in the regulation of several hallmarks of systemic COPD pathology, including cachexia, decreased oxidative muscle metabolism, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation. Recently, expression of PPARs and related cofactors was shown to be reduced in peripheral skeletal muscle of patients with moderate-to-severe COPD and muscle weakness. The current authors hypothesise that impaired peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor signalling may underlie some of the muscular disturbances in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Proposed mechanisms will be outlined in the present article, as well as the therapeutic potential of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor modulation in the treatment of skeletal muscle dysfunction.