Everybody knows that exercising is good for your health. But what if your medical condition makes it very hard to work out? Luckily, Australian researchers have found promising results for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) that want to stay as active as possible. With the help of supplemental oxygen, they can do a better work-out.
For IPF-patients, exercise is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, physical activity improves the disease’s symptoms and patients’ quality of life. But on the other hand, exercise can increase the production of oxygen oxidants. These substances play an important role in a process called 'oxidation', which is has to do with the loss of electrons by a molecule, atom or ion. Oxidation can be dangerous for the body, and a key feature of IPF is that there already is a higher level of damaging oxygen oxidants. This causes some researchers to worry that exercise-triggered oxidative stress might increase muscle damage in IPF patients.
Supplemental oxygen prevented IPF-patients from experiencing an oxygen shortage during workouts
Australian researchers wanted to investigate this matter further and provided eleven IPF-patients with oxygen or compressed air at rest as well as during a cycle endurance test. They showed improved patients’ ability to exercise while on oxygen therapy. They also discovered that supplemental oxygen prevented IPF-patients from experiencing an oxygen shortage during workouts and that it reduced exercise related dyspnea.
The findings are all positive: patients can do a better work-out with supplemental oxygen, which is great for their quality of life. But what about the worry that the exercise might increase the level of dangerous oxidants? Concerning this issue, the researchers also have good news. They discovered that supplemental oxygen during exercise reduced the blood levels of a substance called 'xanthine'. This is an enzyme which generates reactive oxygen species that damage the body. The lower xanthine levels during the exercise with supplemental oxygen thus reduces muscle damage.
So it seems supplemental oxygen might kill two birds with one stone: not only does it increase the work-out capabilities in IPF-patients, it might also be beneficial for the muscles of these patients.