Enabling Physical Activity in Patients With COPD

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease see benefits from physical activity (PA); however, there are several barriers that limit participation in PA in a primary care setting.

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) see benefits from physical activity (PA); however, there are several barriers that limit participation in PA in a primary care setting. In a study published in the International Journal of COPD, researchers examined factors that encourage and limit participation in PA from the perspective of social cognitive theory.

Participants in the study came from the Birmingham COPD Cohort Study. The researchers sent study invitation letters and the study ultimately included 26 participants between the ages of 50 and 89 years.

“At all stages, engaging in physical activity (PA) may afford a variety of general and disease-specific health benefits, including reduced risk of hospitalization and death; thus, participation in daily PA is recommended by experts,” the authors wrote.

According to the analysis, a majority of barriers (eg, physical limitations and constrained mobility) were related to the disease. The study also identified the psychological and emotional impact of COPD. Participants expressed being embarrassed, frustrated, and disappointed that they were unable to engage in PA. A fear of breathlessness also contributed to low PA levels.

“Our findings support the rationale for developing personalized PA regimes, commencing at a level that is comfortable for the individual and gradually increasing in intensity/duration,” the authors wrote.

Factors that enabled PA included controlled motivation, such as taking care of a family member, enjoyment, and the belief that PA is beneficial.

“Thus, identifying and promoting pleasurable activities are important in encouraging individuals with COPD to become more physically active,” they wrote.

Feeling accomplished after engaging in PA is important for individuals who use PA as a way to cope with feeling a lack of control because of their COPD. In addition, socializing with other people can be beneficial for people with COPD who might feel socially isolated.

“Overall, future interventions should aim to improve self-efficacy, cultivate positive outcome expectations, and support COPD patients to adjust and acquire realistic expectations regarding PA,” the authors concluded. “Furthermore, as general practitioners are the first point of contact for patients with COPD, their role in exploring patients’ views on COPD and the importance of PA is crucial.”