Non-CF bronchiectasis is characterized by chronic cough, mucus production, a limited ability to exercise, and reduced quality of life. Its treatment can include pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches. Among the latter is exercise training, and a good level of evidence — with consistent results — exists that an exercise program benefits people with bronchiectasis, in the same way as it benefits people with COPD.

Exercise training for bronchiectasis studies

A Phase 1 study from the Curtin University of Technology (NCT00885521) assessed the short- and long-term effects of twice weekly exercise training, given over eight weeks, in people with bronchiectasis. Outcomes (including changes in exercise capacity and disease flares) were measured at the end of the training period, and again at six and 12 months.

Participants took part in supervised exercise training and endurance, and upper and lower limb strength training or were assigned to a control group. Primary objectives were the incremental shuttle walk test chronic respiratory disease questionnaire and secondary objectives the 6-minute walk test. According to study results published in the journal Respiratory Research, “exercise training in bronchiectasis was associated with short term improvement in exercise capacity, dyspnea [labored breathing] and fatigue.” Over the longer term, “Exercise training reduced the frequency of acute exacerbations … compared to the control group … over 12 months follow up … with a longer time to first exacerbation with exercise training of 8 months …  and fewer exacerbations over 12 months,” the study reported.

Another study assessed the role of pulmonary rehabilitation and inspiratory muscle training. It compared an eight-week training program of pulmonary rehabilitation with exercise training alone, and pulmonary rehabilitation (exercise training) with inspiratory muscle training, to a control group not given either program. Results reported in a study published in Thorax Journal concluded that “pulmonary rehabilitation resulted in improvements in health status and exercise capacity in people with bronchiectasis. Inspiratory muscle training did not bring additional benefits in terms of exercise performance but may influence the longevity of the observed training effects.”

Likewise, a retrospective study of pulmonary rehabilitation undertaken in non-CF bronchiectasis patients to improve their exercise capacity, published in the journal Respiration, found that a three-week rehab program resulted in a significant improvement in exercise capacity (as measured by the 6 minute walk distance test), and in dyspnea and health-related quality of life.


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