Pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD: are programs with minimal exercise equipment effective?

J Thorac Dis. 2014 Nov;6(11):1606-14. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2014.07.45.


Pulmonary rehabilitation is an essential component of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) management with strong evidence supporting the efficacy of pulmonary rehabilitation to improve exercise capacity and quality of life, as well as reduce hospital admissions. However, it is estimated that only 2-5% of people with COPD who could benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation have access to programs. Most research on the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation has used equipment such as cycle ergometers and treadmills for endurance training and weight machines for resistance training. To enable greater availability of pulmonary rehabilitation, the efficacy of exercise training using minimal equipment needs to be evaluated. Randomised controlled trials that used minimal, low cost equipment for endurance (eight trials) and strength training (three trials) compared to no training in people with COPD were evaluated. Statistically and clinically significant differences in functional exercise capacity and quality of life, as well as improvements in strength were demonstrated when exercise training with minimal equipment was compared to no training [six-minute walk test: mean difference 40 (95% CI: 13 to 67) metres; St George's Respiratory Questionnaire: mean difference -7 (95% CI: -12 to -3) points]. While the number of studies is relatively small and of variable quality, there is growing evidence that exercise training using minimal, low cost equipment may be an alternative to equipment-intensive pulmonary rehabilitation programs.

Keywords: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); elastic resistance bands; exercise training; pulmonary rehabilitation; walking training.

Publication types

  • Review