New Research Suggests Physical Activity Reduces Anxiety and Depression in COPD Patients

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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physical activity and COPD

The benefits of physical activity are widely accepted by scientists and doctors today, with effects observed in weight control, as well as mood and mental health. Now research is showing that increased physical activity among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) reduces their risk of anxiety and depression.

Results from the study were presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in London. The research was conducted by investigators at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

The oral presentation, titled “Physical activity and risk of comorbidities in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” is available as an abstract (#3302), but the study has not been published. The data have been submitted recently for publication to a medical journal.

Comorbidities often are reported by COPD patients, and low physical activity is believed to be a crucial risk factor for comorbidities.

Researchers analyzed the association of physical activity with the incidence of several categories of comorbidities in COPD (cardiovascular, neurological, hormonal, musculoskeletal, cancer and infectious diseases).

The team assessed physical activity levels using the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam Physical Activity Questionnaire at baseline and followed patients for up to five years after that. The assessment included 409 patients from primary care practice in the Netherlands and Switzerland. During the five-year follow-up, patients reported their comorbidities and were asked to complete the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire for mental health assessment.

Results suggested that higher levels of physical activity at the beginning of the study were linked to an 11% reduced risk of developing anxiety over the course of the five years of the study, as well as a 15% reduced risk of depression. The researchers, however, did not observe statistically significant associations between physical activity and any of the other comorbidities’ categories analyzed.

“In COPD patients, those with high PA [physical activity] are less likely to develop depression or anxiety over time. PA promotion programs may be considered to lower the burden of mental disorders in COPD patients,” the authors said in a press release. “These findings have particular significance since mental disorders are common in patients with COPD. The prevalence of depression and anxiety is approximately 40% in COPD patients, while the corresponding figure is less than 10% in the general population.”