WEDNESDAY, June 27, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A structured exercise program boosted the overall health of lung transplant patients and reduced their risk of cardiovascular problems, a new study reports.
Lung transplant patients often have weak muscles and limited physical endurance due to inactivity before the transplant and the drugs they must take after, the researchers said.
Many patients remain inactive after their transplant, and up to half develop conditions such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis, the study authors noted.
Exercise can help prevent these problems.
The new study included 40 patients with an average age of 59 who had single or double lung transplants. About half were assigned to a three-month exercise program while the rest (the control group) received usual care.
The patients in the exercise group did three 90-minute workouts per week after they were discharged from the hospital. The activities included cycling, walking, stair climbing and leg presses. Exercise intensity increased over the course of the training program.
The control group did not engage in the training regimen, but did perform daily mobility exercises -- such as walking, cycling and stair climbing -- for about six weeks after their surgery.
One year after being discharged from the hospital, patients in the exercise group were walking an average of 85 minutes a day, compared with 54 minutes for those in the control group.
The patients in the exercise group also had significantly more leg strength and self-reported physical functioning, could walk farther in six minutes, did much more physical activity and had lower blood pressure and better cardiovascular health than those in the control group.
The study was published in the June issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.
"Our study showed patients who had uncomplicated lung transplant surgery benefited greatly from supervised exercise training, which was initiated immediately after they were discharged from [the] hospital," lead author Dr. Daniel Langer, an expert in respiratory diseases and rehabilitation at University Hospitals KU Leuven in Belgium, said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about lung transplants.