A randomised controlled study of the effects of exercise training in 39 patients with chronic respiratory disability was performed. Exercise training began with six weeks in a rehabilitation centre and was continued at home. The original control group attended the rehabilitation centre after the controlled part of the study. The treated group experienced subjective benefit from rehabilitation. The 12-minute walking distance increased on average from 523 m to 643 m in the treatment group and from 564 m to 607 m in the control group. The treatment effect of 77 m (SE 33 m) was significant at the 5% level. Treadmill exercise performance changed little and resting lung function was unaltered after rehabilitation. The treatment group maintained most of their improvement seven months later and the original control subjects improved after their rehabilitation. The study confirms the beneficial effects of exercise training in the chronically breathless and it suggests that the 12-minute walking distance is a useful index of changes in everyday exercise tolerance.
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