Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of disability and death worldwide. Although COPD is considered to be a preventable and treatable disease, there are concerns that COPD remains substantially underdiagnosed and undertreated. Even in mild disease, patients suffer from significant impairments in health status, which places a considerable burden on patients as well as society. Symptomatic patients are likely to progress to more advanced disease. To avoid breathlessness, they adapt and gradually reduce their activities, which, inevitably, leads to further deconditioning. As a consequence, a progressive deterioration in physical activity with increasing severity of COPD can be observed. Because physical activity is closely related to exacerbation rate, hospitalization, and mortality in patients with COPD, it is important to recognize the role of pharmaceutical interventions in enabling patients to stay physically active. Bronch(iol)odilation not only has important direct effects (symptom relief), but also exerts indirect effects on exercise capacity, exacerbation rate, health status, and mortality. In patients with COPD, the latter effects may be even more important than the direct effects. In this review the current view on causes and consequences of activity limitation in COPD is summarized. From this perspective, the rationale behind bronch(iol)odilator therapy as the cornerstone of treatment for patients with COPD will be discussed.