In particular, researchers found that patients who have a greater degree of dyspnea, or shortness of breath, tend to be less physically active.
The most common symptoms experienced by patients with bronchiectasis include coughing, dyspnea, and fatigue. To minimize or avoid dyspnea and fatigue, these patients tend to adapt their lifestyle to their reduced functional capacity by decreasing their level of daily physical activity.
Although bronchiectasis is a chronic, progressive, and debilitating disease, limited studies have investigated the impact of bronchiectasis on physical activity.
In addition, while it is known that bronchiectasis patients have a physical activity level below what is recommended, the magnitude of this reduction is still unknown since it has never actually been compared with that of healthy individuals.
Additionally, it is unclear whether the degree or severity of dyspnea and long-term oxygen therapy (a treatment proven to improve survival in patients with chronic lung diseases) have an impact on the level of physical activity or on the factors that influence it in this population.
Therefore, researchers conducted a study to evaluate physical activity, the impact of dyspnea and long-term oxygen therapy on physical activity, and the determinants of physical activity in patients with bronchiectasis.
The team conducted a cross-sectional study in 139 patients with bronchiectasis, with a mean age of 45, and 49 healthy people used as controls. Physical activity was assessed by evaluating steps per day using a pedometer, spirometry (a test of lung function), incremental shuttle walking test (ISWT; a cardiopulmonary exercise test to assess functional capacity), and dyspnea.
To measure lung function, forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume (FEV1) were assessed — both well-known measures for this purpose.
Results indicated that patients with bronchiectasis were significantly less physically active than controls. The median activity, as measured by the pedometer was 8,007 steps/day for bronchiectasis patients and 10,994 steps/day for controls.
Results also indicated a significant positive correlation between physical activity and FVC, FEV1, and ISWT scores, meaning that patients with better scores on these three parameters tended to be more active.
In contrast, physical activity was found have a significant negative correlation with dyspnea — indicating that patients with greater dyspnea tended to be less physically active.
According to the team, the factors that contribute to less physical activity in bronchiectasis patients include “pulmonary function, dyspnea, functional capacity [ISWT], and long-term oxygen therapy.”
“Subjects with bronchiectasis exhibited reduced physical activity compared with healthy peers. These findings will guide strategies to enhance daily physical activity and to encourage subjects with bronchiectasis to be more active,” the researchers concluded.
They also emphasized that since the level of physical activity is a known factor for death and hospitalization in other chronic pulmonary diseases, an assessment of daily physical activity should be included when evaluating patients with bronchiectasis.