Exercising with PH

Study update

Last year, the PHA UK supported researcher Siobhan Haran to carry out a study of physical activity levels amongst people with PH – with the ultimate goal of improving advice and treatment. We caught up with her to find out what happened.

Can you explain a bit more about what the study set out to do?

This research was conducted to explore the physical activity levels of people with pulmonary hypertension. This was assessed using both a questionnaire (the International Physical Activity Questionnaire Short Form – known as the IPAQ-SF) and by asking volunteers to wear an activity monitor for one week.
We then looked at whether there was any difference between the activity levels recorded by the monitor and the amount of activity the volunteers self-reported when completing the questionnaire. The study also aimed to identify whether the volunteers with PH were meeting the UK government recommendations for physical activity of 150 minutes per week.

Why did you choose this subject for your study?

There is very little evidence showing what activity levels people living with PH are achieving and whether this links in with what is being self-reported. There is also not much evidence to say what the best way is to improve activity levels, and what the ‘best’ type of exercise for people with PH is.

So, what do the results of the study show?

The results show that there was no link between the assessed severity of pulmonary hypertension and either the activity levels the volunteers recorded using the questionnaire, or the activity levels recorded using the activity monitor.

There was a link between the activity category produced by the questionnaire (low, moderate or high activity levels) and the amount of time the volunteers spent being active – as recorded by the activity monitor. For example, patients that were being more active and doing more steps, tended to have a higher activity level rating on the questionnaire. This may mean that the activity questionnaire we used might be an accurate tool to identify activity levels in people with pulmonary hypertension.

Over the week that the volunteers wore the activity monitor, almost 82 per cent of the 11 patients participated in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity. This is great news!

Despite this, the overall physical activity levels of the volunteers that participated in this study were deemed to be low in terms of their daily step count. A high level of participation in sedentary-based activities were also recorded, meaning there may be more work to be done in promoting safe physical activity for people living with pulmonary hypertension.

What happens next?

As this study only involved a small number of people, the results can’t be generalised to all patients with pulmonary hypertension. Further work with more patients would need to be done to prove the link between the IPAQ-SF questionnaire and measured activity levels.

It does, however, provide a good basis for future work investigating the best way to monitor and assess physical activity in patients living with PH.
The IPAQ-SF may also be useful for measuring patients’ response to medical treatment, both in research trials and in the clinical setting. This knowledge will help to improve the advice and treatment we provide to patients.

How important were the participants to this study?

The participation of the patients, all of whom were recruited by the PHA UK, was hugely important to be able to further research and gain insights into a small population within respiratory medicine. To be able to treat and support patients with PH in a more tailored way to meet the needs of their condition is invaluable.
I am extremely grateful to those who volunteered to participate; they generously gave up their time to engage with the study and to allow the results produced to be possible.

Why is it so important that patients get involved in studies and trials?

Studies allow learning opportunities to test treatments and interventions and assess the appropriateness of tools used by clinicians. They are important to inform future research and to help clinicians meet patient needs and improve services. It’s also an amazing way to get feedback from the very people that treatments are designed to help!

I am very grateful to the PHA UK for their support throughout the study, from advertising for participants on a number of platforms including Facebook and this magazine, and for generously purchasing the SenseWear activity monitors used in the study. These not only benefitted this study, but will be invaluable in future research too.

Siobhan Haran

Siobhan Haran is a researcher based at Brunel University, London. She carried out the study in conjunction with the Royal Brompton Hospital. The PHA UK supported her study by assisting with the recruitment of participants and providing the activity monitors used.