Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a debilitating disease of the airways which is commonly manifested as difficulty of breathing or dyspnea. Patients who are affected with this disorder typically engage less in physical activities which, they fear, may exacerbate their symptoms. Although the disease is thought to be irreversible, it is mostly manageable through therapeutic intervention and lifestyle changes.
In a study in the area of health informatics research presented in the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference, an Internet-based instruction and support system for a workout program which utilizes a pedometer was able to improve the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of COPD patients.
Lead author and health informatics researcher Dr. Marilyn Moy, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Boston Healthcare System and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School stressed out that the lack of physical activity in patients with COPD added to the burden of the disease which greatly affects the patients’ quality of life. She adds that the key to the management of the disease involves behavioral changes together with exercise. However, Moy points out that compliance with a workout program is pretty difficult to establish.
The health informatics study had 238 participants who are Veterans affected with COPD. The subjects were selected randomly nationwide and almost half of them lived in rural areas. The patients were randomly assigned to either of two groups, the first one being those who would be enrolled in a pedometer-based exercise program with Internet-based support or the group who were assigned to using pedometer alone.
Result from the research showed significant improvement in the health-related quality of life in the patients who were assigned to the Internet-based exercise program as compared to those who were at pedometer alone. The internet-supported pedometer-based program was able to aid the COPD patients through COPD-specific education, specific instructions, personalized goals and timely feedback.
Dr. Moy added that the novel program also improved daily step count in the affected patients. She points out, however, that the potential of the program to be able to sustain exercise and complement current programs in pulmonary rehabilitation in patients affected with COPD warrant further investigation and research.