The physiological basis of rehabilitation in chronic heart and lung disease

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Jul 1;115(1):16-21. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00195.2013. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Abstract

Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation is recognized as a core component of management of individuals with congestive heart failure (CHF) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that is designed to improve their physical and psychosocial condition without impacting on the primary organ impairment. This has lead the scientific community increasingly to believe that the main effects of cardiopulmonary rehabilitative exercise training are focused on skeletal muscles that are regarded as dysfunctional in both CHF and COPD. Accordingly, following completion of a cardiopulmonary rehabilitative exercise training program there are important peripheral muscular adaptations in both disease entities, namely increased capillary density, blood flow, mitochondrial volume density, fiber size, distribution of slow twitch fibers, and decreased lactic acidosis and vascular resistance. Decreased lactic acidosis at a given level of submaximal exercise not only offsets the occurrence of peripheral muscle fatigue, leading to muscle task failure and muscle discomfort, but also concurrently mitigates the additional burden on the respiratory muscles caused by the increased respiratory drive, thereby reducing dyspnea sensations. Furthermore in patients with COPD, exercise training reduces the degree of dynamic lung hyperinflation leading to improved arterial oxygen content and central hemodynamic responses, thus increasing systemic muscle oxygen availability. In patients with CHF, exercise training has beneficial direct and reflex sympathoinhibitory effects and favorable effects on normalization of neurohumoral excitation. These physiological benefits apply to all COPD and CHF patients independently of the degree of disease severity and are associated with improved exercise tolerance, functional capacity, and quality of life.

Keywords: CHF; COPD; cardiopulmonary rehabilitation; exercise training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breathing Exercises
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / pathology
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / physiopathology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Lung Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Muscles / pathology
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiopathology