Reduced Variability of Endurance Time in New Protocols for Exercise Tests in COPD

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2020 Nov 19:15:3003-3012. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S268894. eCollection 2020.


Purpose: For exercise testing of COPD patients, a standard endurance test (ET) with constant workload is recommended. The test suffers from large inter-individual variability and need for large sample sizes in order to evaluate treatment effects.

Methods: A new protocol for ET in COPD was designed. In contrast to the standard ET, the new ET involved an increasing workload in order to reduce the standard deviation of endurance time. Two new ETs were compared with the standard ET. In Study A, the new ET started at 75% of the patient's maximum workload (WMAX) and increased stepwise with 3%/2 min until exhaustion. Study B started at 70% of WMAX and increased linearly with 1%/min.

Results: In Study A, that included 15 patients, the standard deviation and range for endurance time and work capacity were narrower for the new versus the standard ET. However, the higher mean workload at end and the low mean work capacity relative to the standard ET indicated that the stepwise increase was too aggressive. In Study B, that included 18 patients, with a modified protocol, the averages for endurance time, workload at end and work capacity were similar for new and standard ET, while the standard deviations and ranges for endurance time and work capacity were kept more narrow in the new ET. The variances for endurance time were not equal between the standard ET and the two new ETs (p<0.05 for both according to Levene's test).

Conclusion: The new ET reduced the number of patients with extreme endurance times (short and long) compared to the standard test. The new test showed a significant lower variance for endurance time, which potentially can lead to fewer patients needed in comparative studies. The overall best results were observed with a low linear increase during endurance.

Keywords: COPD; constant endurance test; endurance time; exercise testing.

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Test*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status
  • Physical Endurance
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Workload

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Swedish Heart and Lung foundation.