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Walking 6km a day cuts risk of COPD admission

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Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are less likely to be admitted to hospital due to the condition if they take daily walks, new research suggests.

A regime of walking between three and six kilometres a day could reduce the likelihood of the most severe symptoms, according to a Spanish study.

Researchers recruited 543 COPD patients from five respiratory clinics and calculated their exercise levels based on their weekly walking habits.

This information was then compared with data on admissions to the Hospital Galdakao-Usansolo in Bilbao.

COPD patients who maintained moderate or high levels of exercise over a sustained period - which could include the daily walking regime - were at a lower risk of hospital admission due to severe symptoms, known as exacerbated COPD.

The reverse was also found to be true, as those patients who did low amounts of exercise or reduced their exercise levels over time were more likely to experience a significant increase in the rate of admissions with severe COPD symptoms.

Dr Cristóbal Esteban said in the journal Respirology that regular exercise is less common among COPD patients than the wider population.

“However, regular exercise has been associated with reduced risk of hospitalisation for exacerbated COPD and mortality among patients with COPD.”

Even low levels of physical activity such as walking for a couple of hours a week have been linked to a lower risk of hospital admission for exacerbated COPD, Dr Esteban added.

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are both covered by the term COPD, with long-term lung damage leading to breathing difficulties.

Exacerbated COPD is caused by a sudden loss of lung function and can be life-threatening.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • 'Researchers recruited 543 COPD patients from five respiratory clinics and calculated their exercise levels based on their weekly walking habits.'

    I've not read the research, but when people read this type of stuff, they conclude 'that walking is good for people with COPD'. You [would in theory, ethics apart] need to establish that, by starting with a lot of patients who have got COPD, then randomly getting half of them to walk a lot, the other half to not walk a lot, then looking at which group fared the better.

    It isn't clear, that just comparing patients who walk a lot, and others who don't walk a lot, actually tells us much useful at all, because of uncertainty about 'cause and effect'.

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