Aerobic and breathing exercises improve dyspnea, exercise capacity and quality of life in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients: systematic review and meta-analysis

J Thorac Dis. 2020 Mar;12(3):1041-1055. doi: 10.21037/jtd.2019.12.27.


Background: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive disease associated with significant dyspnea and limited exercise capacity. This systematic review aimed to synthesize evidence of exercise interventions during pulmonary rehabilitation that aim to improve exercise capacity, dyspnea, and health-related quality of life (HRQL) in IPF patients.

Methods: Searches were performed in MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL, SPORTDiscus, PubMed and PEDro from inception to January 2019 using search terms for: (I) participants: 'IPF or interstitial lung disease'; (II) interventions: 'aerobic training or resistance training or respiratory muscle training'; and (III) outcomes: 'exercise capacity or dyspnea or health-related quality of life'. Two reviewers independently screened titles, abstracts and full texts to identify eligible studies. Methodological quality of studies was assessed using the Downs and Black checklist and meta-analyses were performed.

Results: Of 1,677 articles identified, 14 were included (four randomized controlled trials and 10 prospective pre-post design studies) that examined 362 patients receiving training and 95 control subjects. Exercise capacity was measured with the 6-minute walk distance, peak oxygen consumption, peak work rate, or endurance time for constant work rate cycling, which increased after exercise [aerobic exercise; aerobic and breathing exercises; aerobic and inspiratory muscle training (IMT) exercises] compared to the control groups. Dyspnea scores improved after aerobic and breathing exercises. HRQL also improved after aerobic exercise training alone or combined with breathing exercises. Aerobic training alone or combined with IMT or breathing exercises improved exercise capacity.

Conclusions: Breathing exercises appears to complement exercise training towards improved dyspnea and HRQL in patients with IPF.

Keywords: Dyspnea; exercise; interstitial lung diseases; quality of life; rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Review