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Cycling to Better Health

With the diagnosis of CPOD and associated breathing troubles, many patients often find that it is much more difficult to lead an active life. Difficulties with completely exhaling often mean the inability to stay active and physically fit.

Now, however, a series of studies from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) suggests that improving a patient’s overall fitness may actually improve their quality of life. Their solutions: additional oxygen during exercise or cycling on a stationary bicycle using just one leg at a time.

During exercise, the muscles place a demand on the lungs for oxygen, which in any other training environment would mean a positive workout. For COPD patients, however, the lungs may have such a difficult time providing the oxygen they need that the oxygen saturation in their blood may drop below 88%. By providing these patients with extra oxygen while they exercise, this crisis is averted and physical fitness can be achieved.

Participants in one study, who were given extra oxygen during exercise, demonstrated a 20% improvement in cardiovascular fitness after just 24 high-intensity training sessions. They also reported that their quality of life improved by 24% in terms of physical health status, and 35% in terms of mental health status.

By improving their fitness, COPD patients used less of their maximum capacity. That, in turn, made training less of an effort. Further, because the effort required to breathe was reduced, patients were less limited overall by CPOD.

For patients without access to oxygen during exercise, riding the bicycle one leg at a time is another solution. This approach maximizes the supply of oxygen to the muscles, while minimizing the effects of reduced lung capacity, essentially enabling the load on each leg to be increased without increasing the work the lungs must do. The results:  a 12% increase in whole body fitness and 23% increase in workout rate.

Ultimately, by improving fitness levels, COPD patients are better able to participate in social life and perform everyday tasks. As a result, quality of life is improved. Full Story