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Getting fit, leg by leg

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Good mental and physical health depends on taking exercise and maintaining a good level of fitness. But people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often lead sedentary lifestyles because the loss of elasticity of their lungs makes exercise difficult. This in turn makes their condition deteriorate further and they find themselves on a downward spiral.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology noted that if COPD patients inhale pure oxygen until the blood is sufficiently saturated they can exercise enough to provide the necessary stimulation of the muscles and heart. By improving their fitness, they used less of their maximum lung capacity, and that in turn made exercise less of an effort.

Since it is not always possible to provide sufficient oxygen to reach this level of saturation the researchers looked at one-legged cycling, a technique that in theory allows the load on each leg to be increased without substantially increasing effort from the lungs.  

The researchers demonstrated that cycling with one leg while resting the other dramatically improves fitness in COPD patients. Furthermore they found that providing extra oxygen to these patients while exercising in this way did not further increase the benefits. The patients just needed a suitably adapted exercise cycle.

Every patient in the study reported that their quality of life had improved, both in performing everyday tasks and participating in social activities.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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