Short-Term Physical Therapy Program in COPD Patients Improves Quality of Life, Overall Physical Ability, Study Finds

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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physical therapy for COPD

Researchers at the University of Granada (UGR) and Virgen de las Nieves Hospital in Spain revealed that a brief exercise program, from 7 to 10 days, can improve quality of life and physical abilities while minimizing the need for hospitalization in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The research article, “Results of a Multimodal Program During Hospitalization in Obese COPD Exacerbated Patients,” was published in the Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The study, developed within the context of the PULMOACTIVE project, was also presented at the 2015 European Respiratory Society Congress, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

According to the World Health Organization , in 2002, COPD, a life-threatening respiratory disease, was the fifth-leading cause of death around the world. WHO estimates that by 2030, it will become the third-leading cause of death worldwide. The cost of medical care for adults with COPD by 2020 is expected to grow to more than $90 billion, a dramatic increase from the $59.3 billion spent in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The disease is also associated with significant costs for individual patients, with estimates indicating that on average, each adult with COPD paid $6,000 more in medical care than someone without COPD.

Researchers have now studied whether a short physical therapy program could improve the patients’ quality of life, as well as contribute to a cost savings on the healthcare system.

The CTS-009 research team at the Physical Therapy Department at UGR developed the PULMOACTIVE project, funded by the Health and Progress Foundation, Boehringer Ingelheim and Oximesa. The project focused on the effects of a short-term exercise program on a group of 49 patients who suffered from both COPD and obesity. The program lasted between 7 and 10 days and included exercises using elastic bands, pedaling, seated exercises, and balancing on one foot.

According to a news release, the results, compared to those of patients who did not participate in the exercise program, indicated significant improvements in physical and perceived variables, including quality of life, overall physical ability, psychological well-being, and daily functionality.

Moreover, the team concluded that such a short program could minimize the effects of hospitalization, decreasing the need for patients to prolong their stay in hospitals and consequently reducing medical costs associated with COPD treatment and patient care.