PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — A program of walking enhancement is therapeutic for patients with mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study has shown.

Advice alone was not sufficient to reverse patients’ sedentary ways. However, the researchers found that a pedometer intervention helped patients by allowing them to monitor their activity levels and providing them with objective feedback of their progress.

“The intervention group presented with fewer acute exacerbations than the control group,” Laura Mendoza, MD, from the Hospital Clinic of the University of Chile in Santiago, told Medscape Medical News. There were also clinical benefits in quality of life, as measured by the symptoms component of the St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire, she noted.

The researchers examined the effect of a 3-month program of pedometer-enhanced physical activity in patients with smoking-induced COPD.

Dr. Mendoza presented the results here at the American Thoracic Society 2013 International Conference.

“We gave, together with the pedometers, a step-goal program,” she said. Participants were encouraged to walk 9000 steps a day. Those already walking 9000 steps a day at baseline were encouraged to maintain that level, she explained.

All participants were encouraged to be more active. Those in the control group were advised to walk for 30 minutes a day, but were not given a specific number of steps and were not given a pedometer.

At the beginning and end of the study, all patients underwent spirometry and a 6-minute walk test, and completed the modified Medical Research Council Dyspnea Scale and quality-of-life measures.

At baseline, there were no significant differences between the intervention and control groups.

At 3 months, there was a significant increase in the daily step count in the intervention group, compared with the control group. There were also improvements on the symptom component of the St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire, and fewer of the participants in the intervention group had acute exacerbations of their COPD at follow-up. There were no significant differences between the groups on other measures.

Dr. Mendoza concluded that the intervention program helped increase the average number of steps walked each day and had clinical benefits. She said only 1 patient admitted to putting the pedometer on his dog.

Increased physical activity appears to benefit patients with a variety of conditions, and pedometers provide solid feedback on their progress, Maycon Reboredo, PhD, PT, professor of medicine at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who was asked to comment on the study, told Medscape Medical News.

Dr. Reboredo said he is beginning a study of patients on kidney dialysis that incorporates pedometers to see if increased activity helps improve their overall functioning.

Source: Medscape.