Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Because only 20% of cigarette smokers develop COPD, certain environmental and lifestyle factors may protect against the disease development.
Methods: To investigate the relationship between life-long physical activity involvement and the COPD risk, a case-control study was conducted in central Japan. A total of 278 eligible patients (244 men and 34 women) age 50 to 75 years were referred by respiratory physicians, while 335 controls (267 men and 68 women) were recruited from the community. All participants underwent spirometric measurements of lung function. Information on demographic and lifestyle characteristics was obtained by face-to-face interview using a structured questionnaire.
Results: Older adults who remained physically active had better lung function than others inactive over the life course. The COPD patients were found to be less active than their healthy counterparts. Significant reductions in risk of COPD and breathlessness were evident by being active life-long, with adjusted odds ratio 0.59 (95% CI 0.36-0.97) and 0.56 (95% CI 0.36-0.88), respectively.
Conclusions: The study suggested an inverse association between life-long physical activity and the risk of COPD and breathlessness. Promotion of physical activity to prevent this major disease should be encouraged.