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Interval and continuous training are similarly effective in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  1. Mark R Elkins1,2,3,
  2. Tiffany J Dwyer2,3
  1. 1Centre for Evidence-Based Physiotherapy, The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark R Elkins, Centre for Evidence-Based Physiotherapy, The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, Australia; mark.elkins{at}

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People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience progressive airflow limitation and are predisposed to respiratory infections, both of which can limit their exercise capacity, and quality and length of life. People with COPD benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, which involves exercise training, education and psychosocial support. Exercise training does not improve lung function but instead reverses deconditioning and maximises the available exercise capacity to reduce the impact of COPD. Increasing the intensity of training results in greater gains in exercise capacity, but many people with COPD are unable to sustain high-intensity training. An alternative to continuous exercise is interval training, which involves periods of high-intensity exercise separated by recovery periods. Interval training may provide a tolerable training regimen with a greater overall training load than continuous exercise.


This systematic review by Beauchamp and colleagues aimed to synthesise the best available evidence comparing the effectiveness of continuous and interval exercise training on exercise capacity and health-related quality of life in people with COPD.

Searches and inclusion criteria

Six key biomedical databases were searched for appropriate studies published up until May 2009. The reference lists of identified studies were hand-searched. Only randomised trials of continuous versus interval exercise training on a cycle ergometer or treadmill were included. Participants had to have a clinical diagnosis of COPD, with impairment of either the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.