A new lease of life for rehabilitation

While the virtues of physical activity are universally recognized, it's not always easy to put theory into practice. Especially when exercise is synonymous with breathlessness. How can we encourage patients suffering from respiratory illnesses to fight a sedentary lifestyle? At the University of Montpellier and the Montpellier University Hospital, the focus is on digital technology.

The official recommendation is to walk briskly for at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week. But where do you find the motivation to engage in physical activity when you're affected by an illness that makes you breathless or tired? For Maurice Hayot, physiologist and pulmonologist at the UM and CHU in Montpellier, and researcher at the PhyMedExp laboratory for physiology and experimental medicine of the heart and muscles.1digital technology can help get these patients moving again.

With the m-Rehab research program, the specialist offers patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD) and sleep apnea a digital solution for remote rehabilitation in their living environment. "It's a brand-new application and website designed to support patients, in conjunction with their circle of caregivers, in adopting health-promoting behaviours," explains Maurice Hayot.


The doctor and his collaborators have set up two randomized controlled clinical trials with 90% of patients currently included, involving 200 COPD patients and 180 with obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome. "COPD causes shortness of breath, which can make exertion more difficult, so naturally some patients tend to limit their physical activity. Similarly, sleep apnea can lead to drowsiness and fatigue, which are not conducive to exercise," explains Maurice Hayot.

To break this vicious circle of inactivity, m-Rehab has set itself three objectives: firstly, to offer educational workshops via videoconferencing on the benefits and modalities of adapted physical activity (APA). Secondly, to offer personalized interviews with a care manager to identify the possibilities of practicing an APA. And lastly, to provide information on how to adapt one's efforts and monitor one's sensations during practice.

Changing lives

The m-Rehab application offers them a method that will enrich their care path, thanks in particular to connected objects capable of recording their number of steps and certain physiological indicators that provide feedback. " But above all, these are support objects that enable patients to exchange views with their care manager, with the human element remaining at the heart of the process, notably through group digital workshops where everyone can express their needs, limitations and solutions," adds the specialist.

With what feedback from patients? " Some say it's changing their lives, and they clearly rely on it to motivate them to take action, but other patients haven't yet made the leap to behavioral change, which sometimes takes a long time and may require personalized support...", answers Maurice Hayot. The next step for m-Rehab is to move towards technology transfer, in order to roll out this innovation to a wider public. "Today, we have all the scientific evidence to affirm that encouraging physical activity and reducing sedentariness is beneficial not only in the management of chronic diseases but also in prevention for everyone, and a digital solution diversifies the possibilities."

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  1. PhyMedExp (UM, Inserm, CNRS)