Pulmonary rehabilitation exercise prescription in chronic obstructive lung disease: US survey and review of guidelines and clinical practices

J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2013 Sep-Oct;33(5):314-22. doi: 10.1097/HCR.0b013e318297fea4.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a common, progressive disorder associated with disabling symptoms, skeletal muscle dysfunction, and substantial morbidity and mortality. Current national guidelines recommend pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) to improve dyspnea, functional capacity, and quality of life. Many PR exercise programs are based on guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine. Recommendations have also been published by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the American Thoracic Society. Translating exercise science into effective training and clinical care requires interpretation and the use of diverse national PR guidelines and recommendations. Pulmonary rehabilitation clinicians often vary in their education and background, with most nurses and respiratory care practitioners lacking formal training in exercise physiology. Patients often have comorbidities that may further complicate exercise provision and prescription. This article describes the results of an informal, nonscientific survey of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation members exploring current PR exercise prescription practices as a basis for discussion and reviews current national exercise recommendations for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Further, it describes areas of uncertainty regarding exercise prescription in PR and suggests strategies for providing effective exercise training, given the diversity of guidelines, clinician preparedness, and patient complexity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care / standards
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Respiratory Therapy*
  • United States