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This page was published on 13/03/2007
Published: 13/03/2007

   Health & life sciences

Published: 13 March 2007  
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Researchers say exercise testing can benefit chronic disease patients

There may be light at the end of the tunnel for chronic heart and lung patients. Latest research carried out by the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) task force on clinical exercise testing shows that exercise testing can help diagnose chronic heart and lung conditions and measure responses to treatment. After assessing the testing's technology and benefits, the task force advised clinicians on how to best use the testing. The results of the three-year international study were published in the January issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

Exercise is a problem for people diagnosed with chronic heart and lung disease.
Based on the initial findings of the research, clinical exercise testing measures how the heart, lungs and muscles perform during exercise. What is significant here is that the testing is sensitive to changes in performance because improvements can be small and gradual for the most part.

For people diagnosed with chronic heart and lung disease, one of the biggest hurdles they face is exercise. Researchers say that even walking across a room can leave them gasping for air. Failure to exercise triggers other health problems, such as a loss of body mass. This in turn could potentially lower a patient's life expectancy.

Conventional methods used to help these patients include drug treatments, dietary changes, exercise training and even extra oxygen. However, the improvements can be minor and assessing the effectiveness of the treatment is not as simple as people think. Conversely, clinical exercise testing allows for the proper evaluation and applications of interventions for each patient, as well as the measurement of small incremental changes.

Task member Sue Ward, who is also a Professor of Sports Science at the University of Leeds, said: “We were asked to review the latest developments in this kind of testing and look at the reasons why physicians should be considering it as a diagnostic tool.” Prof. Ward said that despite the pricey equipment and trained staff, patients suffering from chronic conditions would benefit.

Based on the initial findings (which will be the subject of a European Respiratory Society monograph later this year), as the indices the tool uses are very sensitive to change, the clinical exercise testing can be used to diagnose certain conditions and diseases. The testing can also have a prognostic value, the researchers said.

While clinical exercise testing is starting to get off the ground in the United Kingdom, researchers in Germany, Italy, North America and Japan have been using it over 20 years. Despite the fact that the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease has been falling rapidly since the 1970s, experts say that cardiovascular disease is still Britons' biggest enemy. Researchers report that the UK posts one of the highest cardiovascular disease death rates in Western Europe.

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