Upper extremity exercise training in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chest. 1988 Apr;93(4):688-92. doi: 10.1378/chest.93.4.688.


Many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) report greater limitation for activities involving the upper extremities than the lower extremities. Exercise training has generally emphasized lower-extremity exercise. We designed and evaluated two simple, practical, and widely applicable upper-extremity training programs in 45 patients with COPD participating concurrently in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation program. Patients were randomly assigned to one of the following three groups: (1) gravity-resistance (GR) upper-extremity training; (2) modified proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) upper-extremity training; or (3) no upper-extremity training (control). Patients were evaluated before and after at least six weeks of uninterrupted training. Twenty-eight patients completed the study. Compared to controls, both GR and PNF patients demonstrated improved performance on tests specific to the training performed (upper-extremity performance test, maximal level and endurance on isokinetic arm cycle). There were no significant changes on isotonic arm cycle, ventilatory muscle endurance, or simulated activities of daily-living tests. Ratings of perceived breathlessness and fatigue decreased significantly in all groups for several tests. We conclude that specific upper-extremity training may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of patients with COPD and warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Physical Exertion
  • Random Allocation
  • Respiratory Function Tests