Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a physical condition which impairs breathing. People who have COPD have twice the risk of developing anxiety or depression when compared to indi..." /> Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a physical condition which impairs breathing. People who have COPD have twice the risk of developing anxiety or depression when compared to indi..." />

Exercise Can Improve Pulmonary Disease and Mood

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a physical condition which impairs breathing. People who have COPD have twice the risk of developing anxiety or depression when compared to individuals without COPD. Mood issues can have a strong effect on COPD and can result in poorer outcomes. Therefore, interventions designed to improve mood can help increase the quality of life and overall health of people living with COPD. A common method of treatment for COPD/mood issues is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, the rumination associated with mood issues in people with COPD is often focused on real, physical impairments, which makes cognitive transformation more difficult.

Alternate approaches, such as exercise and lifestyle change programs, have been implemented, but the effect of these types of treatments is unclear. Peter A. Coventry of the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom sought to determine whether lifestyle/psychological interventions were more successful at diminishing symptoms of anxiety and depression than other forms of treatment. He analyzed data from over 2,000 participants involved in existing studies and found that even though lifestyle interventions and psychological interventions each had minimal effects on their own, multi-faceted interventions that integrated exercise, psychological, and lifestyle elements were the only approaches that dramatically reduced both anxiety and depression.

Other treatment approaches that were analyzed in this study included relaxation strategies, CBT and self-management, but they were found to only minimally reduce symptoms in the participants. Coventry believes that people with COPD can benefit greatly by engaging in regular, short periods of moderate exercise. For individuals who are required to take several medications for these conditions, exercise provides an alternative to antidepressants and other medications and targets negative mood states that accompany anxiety and depression. But, Coventry notes that the exact mechanism that causes this positive effect has yet to be fully explained. He added, “In conclusion, exercise training can have adventitiously positive effects on psychological health in all COPD patients, even among those with sub-threshold levels of depression and anxiety.”

Coventry PA, Bower P, Keyworth C, Kenning C, Knopp J, et al. (2013). The effect of complex interventions on depression and anxiety in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60532. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060532

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  • RAchel

    April 18th, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    Exercise can lift your mood no doubt – I have experienced that myself and I continue to derive the mood enhancing benefits of exercise. But how does exercise fit into the regime of someone who has difficulty breathing? Will such people not have issues exercising? Or does exercising help them breathe better and thus help wih the issue? I’d love to know more on this because I have a friend who has breathing difficulties crop up every now and then. He is not diagnosed with any condition but has the problem.

  • savannah

    April 19th, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    How does someone with COPD begin an exercise program?
    If they already have a difficult time with breathing I would suspect that this would have to be a plan that is closely monitored by their treating physicians to ensure that the patient is doing things that are at a healthy level for them.
    But I can definitely see how it could improve depression and those symptoms.


    April 20th, 2013 at 12:13 AM

    ^^savannah:exactly what I thought.maybe there is a special exercise technique they need to hold your horses people,consult and expert or a professional and only then begin something like this!

  • Arabella

    April 20th, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Any time that you can get someone to get up and get moving then that’s a good thing! We have long since become couch potatoes and our health has really begun to suffer as a nation as a result of that. We all need to get more on board with this train of thought because if we don’t we are sure to raise an entire generation of children who are going to be less healthy at an earlier age than we once thought should be possible.

  • carrington

    April 23rd, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    I wonder sometimes if the medical field is doing enough to stress to patients just how important it can be for them to get up and do something. I think that a lot of patients may would try to do some exercise if they would hear it more from physicians but I think that many in the field are hesitant to say anything about weight or exercise because they are afraid of offending them or having them leave to see another doctor. But I think that the sad state of our collective health should be enough for many to stop caring about offending and being truthful and forthright with the patients. Your health is never going to improve or get any better if you don’t take things into your own hands and add in some activity and a healthy diet. And I think that if this is stressed enough by someone like their doctor whom they respect them maybe that could have more of the impact that is needed.

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