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Christian Osadnik – update April 2015

I am glad to report that our study is coming along very well (better than expected)!

It has been a while since my last update. You might remember from my last blog that I am conducting research in Leuven, Belgium into a ‘new’ exercise training method for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This training method involves walking, but on a treadmill that is angled downwards. In essence, this means you perform walking training as if you were walking down one very big, long hill. 

I am glad to report that our study is coming along very well (better than expected)! The cold winter weather brought an anticipated surge of people with COPD into pulmonary rehabilitation programmes, as this is a time of increased chest infections and hospital admissions. December, January and February were therefore very busy! We did not, however, see a dip in patient numbers after this time, meaning we are busier now than at any other point in the study. We have performed lots of tests, conducted lots of assessments and worked with many people to try to get the most benefit from their 3-month pulmonary rehabilitation program at UZ Gasthuisberg.

Conducting a bicycle endurance test in the lung function laboratory at UZ Gasthuisberg


As we have now enrolled 75% of our target number of participants, we are well on track for study completion later this year. Whilst we have not yet looked at the results of the research, we have been pleasantly surprised at the progress many people have made during their training. For example, the majority of people who do downhill walking appear able to walk at a quicker pace, more rapidly than expected. We have also seen large improvements in the length of time people can ride a bike and have had one person who wanted to start running on the treadmill!

We do not yet know, however, whether swapping normal walking training for downhill walking improves people more than usual pulmonary rehabilitation, as pulmonary rehabilitation is already a highly effectiveform of treatment for COPD.

In fact, did you know that pulmonary rehabilitation is one of the most effective treatments to improve breathlessness, quality of life and your ability to exercise? It is even associated with a reduced likelihood of being admitted to hospital due to COPD. If you have COPD and haven’t heard of, or completed a course of, pulmonary rehabilitation, please speak to your doctor and ask for more information.

Where to now?

I have officially crossed the halfway mark of my 1-year fellowship here in Leuven. We have lots to do in the study, and the next 2-3 months will be very busy indeed. One of the exciting aspects of this project will be the analysis of thigh muscle tissue samples taken via a small needle from approximately 20 very kind and willing participants.

The information obtained from this analysis will give us a very clear understanding of how and why walking downhill differs from usual walking. From this, we hope to be able to come up with some clear recommendations to help identify the people this type of training would be most suitable for.

Until next time, enjoy the lovely warm spring weather and keep moving!