Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive and debilitating disease that is typically diagnosed only after a long period of gradual worsening. Dyspnea is the symptom that most often interferes with the execution of professional, family, social and daily-life activities of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Such limitations can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and worsen overall quality of life. This article aims to address the functional limitations these patients deal with in carrying out their daily-life activities, establishing guidelines that health professionals can use to help their patients achieve maximum functionality. Guidelines for the use of energy conservation techniques are widely used in pulmonary rehabilitation programs. However, these guidelines should also be used in outpatient clinics and hospitals. A great number of human activities involve the legs and arms. The arms are involved in virtually all everyday activities--from the most simple to the most complex. Some studies have shown that upper-body exercises in which the arms are not supported cause thoracoabdominal asynchrony and dyspnea in shorter times and with less oxygen consumption than in exercises involving the legs. Even simple tasks can result in high oxygen consumption and minute ventilation, which accounts for the sensation of dyspnea reported by the patients. In view of these facts, it is appropriate to evaluate the impact that such incapacity has on daily life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Techniques of energy conservation that can be used as tools to minimize the discomfort of such patients are herein discussed, and those considered most appropriate are highlighted.
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