A good relationship with a health professional, as well as peer support, have been identified among key factors in helping patients with lung conditions to stay active, according to UK researchers.
Their study found regular contact with healthcare professionals, support from peers and access to regular organised exercise sessions help people with chronic lung conditions to be physically active.
“Our findings will hopefully lead us to being able to provide better long-term support for people with COPD”
They noted that physical inactivity in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease could lead to poor prognosis, including increased risk of hospitalisation and death.
Previous research had shown that pulmonary rehabilitation could improve fitness, reduce shortness of breath and enhance quality of life in people with COPD, the study authors said.
Those with COPD reported that they enjoyed pulmonary rehabilitation and valued support from healthcare professionals during the programme, they said.
But they highlighted that the average duration of pulmonary rehabilitation programmes in the NHS were between six to eight weeks.
The new study, carried out by the universities of Lincoln and Oxford, found that patients with COPD faced barriers to remain active following pulmonary rehabilitation.
These included social isolation, restricted access to community exercise sessions, and symptoms of their condition such as breathlessness that evoked anxiety or fear and made them avoid activities.
“People living with COPD often tell us that they have difficulty in maintaining a physically active lifestyle”
It found that regular contact with healthcare professionals, including feedback about progress and achievements, was important to motivate people to be physically active after pulmonary rehabilitation.
Interaction with their peers could also provide a sense of solidarity and support after rehabilitation, and access to regular organised exercise sessions helped them to establish a routine.
Researchers analysed data from international research studies that used interviews and focus groups to gather insights into the experiences of COPD patients.
It involved 14 studies, including 167 COPD patients, with the findings published in the journal Primary Care Respiratory Medicines.
The researchers said the results could offer important insights for clinicians and healthcare professionals to consider in delivering long-term COPD management.
Dr Arwel Jones, research fellow at Lincoln, said: “Being physically active is extremely important for people with COPD, however, people with the disease find it difficult to remain physically active once they have finished pulmonary rehabilitation.
“By telling us the key barriers and facilitators for remaining physically active, our findings will hopefully lead us to being able to provide better long-term support for people with COPD,” he said.
“We hope that the research can be used to inform future strategies in the NHS”
Hayley Robinson, who led the study as part of her PhD in the promotion of physical activity in COPD at Lincoln, said: “People living with COPD often tell us that they have difficulty in maintaining a physically active lifestyle.
“The results provide clear guidance for future research design and we hope that the research can be used to inform future strategies in the NHS to promote physical activity after pulmonary rehabilitation,” she said.
Dr Veronika Williams, departmental lecturer at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences in Oxford, said: “This is the first qualitative systematic review providing evidence of patients’ experiences of physical activity post pulmonary rehabilitation.”