Background: Benefits of community-based whole-body vibration (WBV) as a mode of exercise training for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have not been investigated. The low skill demand of WBV may enhance habitual sustainability to physical activity by people with COPD, provided efficacy of WBV can be established. The purpose of this trial was to compare a community-based WBV intervention with a sham WBV (SWBV) intervention and monitor exacerbations, exercise tolerance, and functional performance of the lower limbs of people with COPD.
Methods: Community-dwelling adults with a GOLD clinical diagnosis of COPD were recruited to the trial. This was a Phase II efficacy trial with crossover to sham intervention interspersed with two-week washout. Each six-week intervention consisted of two sessions per week of either WBV or SWBV. The interventions were completed in the home of each participant under supervision. The outcome measures were selected psychological (perceived dyspnoea) and physiological (heart rate and oxygen saturation) responses to exercise, simulated activities of daily living (timed-up-and got test and 5-chair stands test), and selected kinematic variables of gait across the 14-week trial.
Results: Sixteen adults with stable COPD were recruited to the trial. No exacerbations were reported during the WBV or SWBV interventions. After WBV, performance of activities of daily living (ADLs) and gait improved (p ≤ 0.05), while there was no change after SWBV (p > 0.05). Despite five withdrawals during the washout period, a 100% compliance to each six-week intervention was noted.
Conclusions: Results showed that WBV did not exacerbate symptoms of COPD that can be associated with physical inactivity. The WBV intervention improved tests to simulate ADLs such as rising from a chair, turning, and walking gait with greater effect than a SWBV intervention. If a placebo effect was systemic to the WBV intervention, the effect was negligible. As a standalone community-based intervention, WBV was an efficacious mode of exercise training for people with stable COPD that did not negatively effect exercise tolerance or exacerbate the disease, while concurrently improving functional performance of the lower limbs.
Trial registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612000508875.