The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found patients with COPD learned to inhale more slowly and exhale more completely as they used their breath to play a computer game.
"COPD is a double-edged sword: the incapacitating lung condition can cause such serious shortness of breath that every-day physical activity, such as walking a flight of stairs, becomes unduly burdensome -- and yet one of the few effective symptomatic treatments for COPD is the very thing that its victims dread most: exercise," lead researcher Eileen Collins of the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., said in a statement.
While the computerized program is still in the research stages, Collins says the program shows promise for future use in pulmonary rehabilitation programs.
In the study, 64 patients were randomized to three groups -- exercise alone, exercise plus ventilation feedback or ventilation feedback alone. Ventilation feedback patients had their breathing monitored by a computer program which provided them with real-time biofeedback and set individualized goals, presented graphically on a screen in front of them.
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