Smokers' Lung Function May Improve With Activity

(iVillage Total Health) - If you smoke, getting moderate to high levels of regular physical activity may slow the decline in breathing and lung function, according to a new study.

Exercise and physical activity may also help delay development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a pulmonary disease commonly associated with prolonged smoking. COPD is a chronic, progressive disease of the lungs that reduces airflow over time. It is characterized by symptoms that include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, quality of life may be severely compromised.

COPD involves gradual, permanent damage caused to the lungs. The condition is usually found in people over the age of 60. Quitting smoking or exposure to environmental pollutants such as secondhand smoke are the primary preventive measures.

Researchers in Spain conducted a retrospective study of 6,790 people over an 11-year period. None of the participants had COPD at the outset of the study. Their physical activity levels, smoking histories and lung function were assessed. By the end of the study, 982 patients had developed COPD. But among smokers, there was a 21 percent reduction in new cases of COPD for those who engaged in moderate to high physical activity. Researchers said the regular physical exercise helped suppressed inflammation that occurs in the lungs when smoking. This may reduce the harmful effects of COPD.

"The interaction between physical activity and smoking should be taken into account when projecting the future burden of this respiratory disease," Dr. Judith Garcia-Aymerich, the lead author, said in a press release.

The study was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a journal of the American Thoracic Society.

Copyright 2007 iVillage Total Health.

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