Arm activities are required for maintenance of self-care and independent living. This study aimed to investigate whether and to what extent arm activities of daily living (ADL) in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients differ compared to healthy controls and the extent to which they perform arm ADL at a relatively higher upper limb muscle effort.Daily arm and leg activities were assessed using accelerometers in the home environment (COPD: n = 21, healthy: n = 24; part 1). The relative efforts of the trapezius, deltoid and biceps muscles were studied using electromyography during domestic arm ADL in a laboratory setting (COPD: n = 17, healthy: n = 15; part 2).After correction for walking time, the time spent on arm ADL was similar between COPD patients and healthy control subjects (p = 0.52), while the intensity of arm activities was lower in COPD patients (p = 0.041). In the laboratory setting, arm ADL were performed at a lower intensity by COPD patients, while the trapezius muscle effort was significantly higher during several arm ADL compared to healthy control subjects (p<0.05).COPD patients have a similar duration of arm ADL compared to healthy subjects after correction for walking time, but perform arm activities at a lower intensity. Moreover, patients perform some arm ADL at a relatively higher muscle effort.