There is little research on the effects of prolonged exercise maintenance treatment (EMT) after completing a pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) program. For a study, researchers wanted to determine the effects of long-term EMT (>2 years) on patient-centered and functional outcomes. A total of 36 participants with COPD were screened (EMT, n=12, and control, n=24); 6 cases and 17 controls finished the research. A 6-week public relations program was implemented for all participants. Those in the EMT group (but not the control group) were subjected to extra EMT for at least two years. Spirometry and a 6-minute walk test were performed at both baseline (post-PR) and post-EMT. 

Six EMT patients (mean age, 76±11.9, mean  50±16 sessions/year) were compared with 17 control patients (mean age, 71±10.7, mean 10±0 sessions/year). The researchers found a statistically significant decrease in FEV1 in the control group (P<0.009) but not in the EMT group (P<0.009), with the EMT group’s significance, probably restricted by the small number of patients. The EMT group appeared to have a decreased number of exacerbations, albeit this was not statistically significant. There were no differences in any of the other outcomes when they were compared.

In patients with COPD, EMT appears to prevent rapid FEV1 decrease and may lessen exacerbations. Improvements in muscular strength or inflammatory indicators do not appear to have a role in this.