There are no recommendations on how to measure arm exercise capacity in individuals with COPD. The objectives of this study were (1) to synthesize the literature on measures of arm exercise capacity in individuals with COPD, (2) to describe the psychometric properties and the target construct of each measure, and (3) to make recommendations for clinical practice and research.
Studies conducted in patients with COPD that included a measure of arm exercise capacity were identified after searches of five electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, PEDro, and Cochrane Library) and reference lists of pertinent articles. One reviewer performed data extraction, and two assessed the quality of the studies that described measurement properties, using the Consensus-based Standards for the Selection of Health Status Measurement Instruments (COSMIN) checklist.
Of 654 reports, 41 met the study criteria. Five types of arm exercise tests were identified: arm ergometry, ring shifts, dowel lifts, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and activities of daily living. Four studies assessed the measurement properties of the unsupported upper-limb exercise test (UULEX), the 6-min pegboard and ring test (6PBRT), a test involving weight shifts, and the grocery-shelving task (GST). Validity studies were of fair to good quality, whereas reliability studies were of poor quality.
Arm ergometry may be the best method for measuring peak supported arm exercise capacity and endurance. The UULEX, 6PBRT, and GST may better reflect activities of daily living and should be the tests of choice to measure peak unsupported arm exercise capacity (UULEX) and arm function (6PBRT and GST).