Effectiveness of an exercise training programme COPD in primary care: A randomized controlled trial

Annemieke Fastenau*, Onno C. P. Van Schayck, Bjorn Winkens, Karin Aretz, Rik Gosselink, Jean W. M. Muris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Pulmonary rehabilitation is very effective in improving exercise capacity, dyspnea and quality of life in the small group of patients with moderate to severe COPD. Given that little is known about exercise training in the large group of patients with mild to moderate COPD, we assessed the effectiveness of an exercise training programme in primary care.

Methods: In this RCT, 90 patients with mild to moderate COPD (FEV1 74.2 +/- 13.5%pred) participated in a 4-month exercise training programme or control treatment. Primary outcome was improvement in functional exercise capacity, assessed by the 6-min walking distance (6MWD). Secondary outcomes were breathlessness (MRC dyspnoea score), disease-specific quality of life (CCQ, CRQ), muscle strength and objective daily physical activity. There was a follow-up measurement at 6 months.

Results: At 4 months, we found a statistically and clinically relevant between-group difference in 6MWD of +26.6 m (95% CI: 4,3-49.0, p = 0.020). Shoulder strength significantly improved with a between-group difference of 23.9 Nm (p = 0.0350). At 6 months, there was a significant improvement in handgrip force and CRQ sub score mastery of respectively 1.9 KgF (p = 0.028) and 0.5 (p = 0.035). There were no significant between-group differences in breathlessness, quality of life, knee strength and daily physical activity.

Conclusion: The results indicate that exercise training in primary care is particularly effective in improving physical fitness (exercise capacity and strength), but not in breathlessness, health-related quality of life and daily physical activity. A broader assessment for COPD patients in primary care might be a necessary condition to offer the most effective intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105943
Number of pages9
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • COPD
  • Exercise training
  • Physical activity
  • Primary care
  • Randomized controlled trial


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