Twenty-four men with chronic bronchitis participated in a controlled trial of a physical training scheme. The training involved progressive stair-climbing exercises carried out over a three-month period unsupervised at home. The twelve men in the exercise group benefited significantly in terms of general well-being and reduced breathlessness. Their exercise tolerance increased significantly as judged by increased walking speed in a simple 12-minute walking test and by a greater work load tolerated in a progressive work load test on a bicycle ergometer. The mean stride length during the walking test increased significantly with training. No significant changes occurred in body weight, ventilatory function tests or heart rate on exercise. There were no important changes in the control group. It is not clear whether the improvements noted were due to physiological changes such as improved neuromuscular coordination producing a more efficient walking pattern or to predominantly psychological factors such as increased tolerance of dyspnoea. The study demonstrates that a simple training scheme which can be administered from a hospital clinic or family doctor's surgery is safe, feasible, and of benefit to the chronic bronchitic.
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