A Short Walk a Day Helps COPD Patients Stay Out of the Hospital

The last thing a person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may want to think about is revving up their respiratory system with a good walk. New research, however, shows that walking about two miles a day can lower the risk of being hospitalized with severe attacks.

The study, published in Respirology, examined 543 COPD patients from five Spanish respiratory clinics. The scientists looked at the distance the patients walked during the week. Those walked at least three times weekly were divided into groups based on low, moderate, and high activity. That information was then compared to data from Hospital Galdakao-Usansolo in Bilbao, Spain.

They found that COPD patients who committed to moderate or high levels of exercise over time lowered their risk of being hospitalized, while those who didn’t exercise as much were more prone to taking trips to the hospital. The researchers say that walking between three and six kilometers (or 1.8 to 3.7 miles) per day helps.

“COPD patients are less likely to engage in regular physical activity than healthy individuals,” lead researcher Dr. Cristóbal Esteban said. "However, regular exercise has been associated with reduced risk of hospitalization for exacerbated COPD and mortality among patients with COPD."

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Exercise Helps with COPD Symptoms

“Not all COPD patients can walk 3 kilometers, but in every patient with COPD it is clear that some activity is better than none, and that more activity is better than less,” Dr. Darcy D. Marciniuk a professor at the University of Saskatchewan said.

While regular exercise can help keep COPD patients out of the hospital, doctors should combine that with proper drug therapy along with a pulmonary rehabilitation program. This Marciniuk said, "is a clear illustration where one plus one equals three."

“Patients with COPD, and those who care for them, love that kind of math," she said. 

Walking was the focus of this study, but other exercise regimens can be just as beneficial.

Other recent research tracked 29 COPD patients who practiced yoga for an hour twice a week for four weeks, seeing improvements in breathing, quality of life, lung function, and inflammation.

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Share Your COPD Story on Healthline—And Win Big!

No matter how you handle your COPD symptoms, it’s always nice to hear stories of hope from those living with this disease. Healthline’s new You Are Not Your COPD initiative is a good place to share your story and hear from others who are living with the condition.

For every submission, Healthline will donate $10 to the COPD Foundation. The Healthline editorial team will also select one winner from the top five most shared submissions, and that winner will receive a $75 American Express gift card.

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