Over the past 30 years, efforts to fight acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with various drug therapies aimed at the lungs have failed. However, doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have tried a different approach: exercise.

Using an animal model that mimics what happens in people with ARDS, a team of researchers worked to understand how the mechanisms underlying early mobility therapy improve the outcomes of patients with this illness. The study is published in the March 11 edition of Science Translational Medicine.

In the study, mice with acute lung injury and the resulting muscle weakness were exercised for two days. The researchers found that a short duration of moderate intensity exercise led to marked improvements in lung, limb and respiratory muscle function.