Improving Endurance in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Patients

Endurance was the most affected exercise ability measure for pulmonary fibrosis rehabilitation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Pulmonary fibrosis can lead to shortness of breath and a decreased ability to exercise. A recent study looked at how rehabilitation affects measures of exercise ability.

Researchers used exercise tests to evaluate the exercise capacity of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients. Some of the participants attended an exercise based rehabilitation program.

The researchers found that the group that attended rehabilitation saw marked improvements in measures of exercise ability. Specifically, the patients' endurance — or ability to exercise for a longer period of time — almost doubled.

"If you have pulmonary fibrosis, talk to your doctor about rehabilitation options."

Hiroyuki Taniguchi, MD, of the Department of Respiratory Medicine and Allergy in Tosei General Hospital, led the study on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which the lungs become scarred, preventing them from functioning properly.

Patients with pulmonary fibrosis often have trouble breathing.

According to the authors of the study, a patient's ability to exercise is one of the most important measures of health in people with lung diseases. Ability to exercise can be judged in several ways, including walking distance, speed, and endurance.

This study aimed to determine the measure of exercise that showed the most improvement after intervention.

The researchers recruited 48 patients with pulmonary fibrosis who completed the study between June 2005 and May 2011. Half of the patients were assigned to a group that received pulmonary rehabilitation for ten weeks, while the other half were observed without any intervention.

The group that received rehabilitation attended exercise training twice weekly for ten weeks. Each session lasted 90 minutes. Patients received both endurance and strength training.

Through exercise tests, five measures of exercise ability were measured at the beginning of the study and after ten weeks:

  • Endurance, or how long the patient could exercise without becoming very tired
  • Peak work rate, or how intensely the patient can exercise
  • Peak VO2, or the maximum amount of oxygen the patient was consuming
  • Six-minute walking distance, or how far the patient could walk in six minutes
  • Incremental shuttle walking distance, a test in which the patient walks between two cones with a progressively shorter time limit

In the group that received rehabilitation, patients showed improvement on each measure of exercise ability.

In the control group, muscle strength stayed the same and some patients' performances on the six-minute walking distance worsened. Additionally, the researchers found that the rehabilitation affected the patients' endurance time the most.

After going through the rehabilitation program, patients' endurance times improved by an average of 181.6 percent. The researchers concluded that endurance time was the most responsive measurement of exercise ability for the patients' pulmonary rehabilitation.

They suggested that endurance could be used to determine the favorable effects of intervention for pulmonary fibrosis treatment.

The study was published in Respiratory Care on December 10.

The research was partially supported by the NPO Respiratory Disease Conference and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 20, 2013
Last Updated:
December 20, 2013