Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Physical Exercise as an Adjunct Therapy in Sleep Apnea—An Open Trial

  • 464 Accesses

  • 2 Citations


Background: The aim of this study was to determine in an open trial if physical exercise in sleep apnea patients is safe and/or influences respiratory disturbance index (RDI).

Methods: After being treated 3 months or more with nasal CPAP for moderate to severe sleep apnea syndrome, eleven patients (1 female, 10 male, mean age 52.2 years) began a six-month period of supervised physical exercise twice a week, 2 hours each time. Before and after this period a Polysomnography without CPAP was recorded, along with a bicycle exercise test with lactate profile, echocardiography, body-weight, and body-height measurement.

Results: No adverse effects or cardiopulmonary problems were observed. There was no significant change in body weight with physical training; no significant difference in either min SaO2 nor mean SaO2; and no significant improvement in fitness. No adverse cardiopulmonary effects or problems were observed. There was a decrease of the RDI from 32.8 to 23.6 (p < 0.05), without a significant change in the REM-sleep portion of total sleep time (TST), NREM sleep, or TST.

Conclusions: A prescription for mild to moderate exercise is safe in the management of sleep apnea, and, even in the absence of a fitness improvement, there occurred a decrease in RDI without a change in sleep architecture.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Liistro G, Aubert G, Rodenstein, DO. Management of sleep apnoea syndrome. Eur Respir J 1995;8:1751–1755

  2. 2.

    Waters KA, Everett F, Silence DO, Fagan ER, Sullivan, C. Treatment of sleep apnea in achondroplasia: evaluation of sleep, breathing and somatosensory-evoked potentials. Am J Med Genet 1995;59:460–466

  3. 3.

    Noseda A, Kempeneaers C, Kerkhofs M, Houben JJ, Linkowski, P. Sleep apnea after 1 year domiciliary nasal continuous positive airway pressure and attempted weight reduction: potential for weaning from continuous positive airway pressure. Chest 1996;109:138–143

  4. 4.

    Hudgel DW. Treatment of sleep apnea (Review). Chest 1996;109:1346–1358

  5. 5.

    Whipp BJ, Ward SA. Pulmonary gas exchange dynamics and the tolerance to muscular exercise: effects of fitness and training. Ann Physiol Anthropol 1992;11:207–214

  6. 6.

    Dempsey JA, Mitchell GS, Smith CA. Exercise and chemoreception. Am Rev Respir Dis 1984;129(Suppl 0):31–34

  7. 7.

    Steinacker JM, Röcker K, Stauch M. Anaerobic threshold and ventilatory sensitivity for hypoxemia. In: Bachl N, Graham TE, Löllgen H, eds. Advances in Ergometry. Berlin: Springer Publishers; 1991:243–247

  8. 8.

    Martin BJ, Weil JV, Sparks KE, McCullogh RE, Grover RF. Exercise ventilation correlates positively with ventilatory chemoresponsiveness. J Appl Physiol 1978;22:557–564

  9. 9.

    Levine BD, Friedman DB, Engfred K, et al. The effect of normoxic or hypoxic endurance training on the hypoxic ventilatory response. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1992;24:769–775

  10. 10.

    Strohl KP, Redline S. Recognition of obstructive sleep apnea. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996;154:279–289

  11. 11.

    Rechtschaffen A, Kales A. A manual of standardized terminology, techniques and scoring system for sleep stages in human subjects. Bethesda, MD: US Department of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disease and Blindness; 1968.

  12. 12.

    Kribbs NB, Pack AI, Kline, LR, et al. Effects of one night without nasal CPAP treatment on sleep and sleepiness in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Am Rev Respir Dis 1993;147:1162–1168

  13. 13.

    Lehmann MJ, Lormes W, Opitz-Gress A, et al. Training and overtraining: an overview and experimental results in endurance sports. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1997;37:7–17

  14. 14.

    Haxhiu MA, van Lunteren E, Mitra J, Cherniack, NS, Strohl KP. Comparison of the responses on the diaphragm and upper airway muscles to central stimulation of the sciatic nerve. Respir Physiol 1984;58:65–76

  15. 15.

    Winchell B. Orofacial myofunctional therapy for adult patients. Int J Orofacial Myology 1989;15:8–14

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Kingman P. Strohl M.D..

Additional information

Preliminary data from this investigation and a part of the figures were previously published in German in Pneumologie 1997;51(Suppl 3):779–782

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Giebelhaus, V., Strohl, K.P., Lormes, W. et al. Physical Exercise as an Adjunct Therapy in Sleep Apnea—An Open Trial. Sleep Breath 4, 173–176 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-000-0173-z

Download citation


  • sleep apnea syndromes
  • physical exercise
  • sleep