Authors of the study, which involved 238 older adults with COPD from across the US, said the results show online-based interventions to increase physical activity in COPD patients can improve their health and quality of life.
They described the programme as a ‘safe and accessible home-based intervention’, which was intended to supplement existing pulmonary rehabilitation programmes.
The study group was given access to a website that provided them with individualised goals, feedback, an online community and education resources. They were also given pedometers and instructed to upload their step counts at least once a week.
A control group were also given pedometers, but had no access to the online resources or any exercise instructions.
The authors used the St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) to assess the health-related quality of life in patients before the programme and again four months after it began.
More exercise each day
Patients in the intervention group saw a 3.2-unit rise in their SGRQ total score, measured from 0-100, whereas those in the control group had no such gain.
Intervention participants walked 779 more steps a day on average and saw an improvement in COPD symptoms compared with control patients.
Lead author Professor Marilyn Moy from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, said: ‘Low levels of physical activity among individuals with COPD can contribute to impaired quality of life and have been linked to higher risk of exacerbations, hospitalisations, and death. However, getting patients to change behaviour and stick to an exercise programme can be difficult.’
She added: ‘This internet-based intervention significantly improved health-related quality of life and daily step count in our patients with COPD. The results are exciting because patients can walk more to make themselves feel better and potentially change the disease course.’
The research was presented this week at the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Diego, California.