Safe and Effective during COPD Acute Exacerbations

Resistance training during an acute flare-up of COPD appears to be safe and helps retain leg muscle strength, a study suggests. Forty people with severe exacerbations of COPD were randomized to receive standard care (corticosteroids, mucus secretion clearance, and breathing exercises) or standard care plus a resistance training program during their hospitalization.

Those who engaged in a one-week program of incremental resistance training did not experience the weakening of the quadriceps muscle that is typical among patients with acute COPD flare-ups. The standard care group showed a 2 percent reduction in quadriceps muscle force.

After an exacerbation, even with optimal medical therapy, it takes considerable time for many COPD patients to return to baseline lung function levels and regain their ability to perform usual physical activities. Rehab is typically recommended after an acute flare, but these findings suggest that it's safe during acute treatment—as early as two days after admission.

The findings may not apply to patients who are more severely ill—for example, suffering from respiratory insufficiency. If you are hospitalized for a severe COPD flare-up, ask your doctor if you're a candidate for in-hospital rehabilitation.

Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Volume 181, page 1072, May 15, 2010

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 14 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 14 Aug 2013