Training people with chronic obstructive lung disease to breath better

In most patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), weak muscles control their breathing. It’s possible to train these muscles. But which ones to train and are the benefits worth the effort?

Here’s what we know.
The most recent review of the literature indicates that training the muscles that control inspiration can significantly improve muscle strength and endurance. The every day benefits to patients include less difficulty in breathing (dyspnea) compared to patients who are simply educated about breathing.

In fact, an earlier review on Medscape concluded that under the right conditions of training, “there is an associated increase in exercise capacity, improvement in quality of life, and decrease in dyspnea.”

Training, as you might expect, requires commitment. In one study, patients trained at home for 30 minutes each day, 6 days a week.

Okay. But what about training the muscles that control expiration?

According to the same Medscape article, the benefits of expiratory muscle training in patients with COPD are less clear. Yes, there are benefits. But training the inspiratory muscles provides a slightly superior effect on exercise capacity, and has the additional benefit that it reduces dyspnea.

The emphasis now is to develop more effective treatment programs.

1/7/07 11:43 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.