CHHS Researchers Test Exercise Table That Could Help COPD Patients

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A UNCW research team is testing an exercise table for a North Carolina company that hopes the investigational device may help patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease breathe a little easier.

“The most exciting thing about this team is that they are coming from all disciplines,” said Justine Reel, associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Health and Human Services and a professor in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences. Participants since the initial stage have included nursing, exercise health, public health studies and clinical research faculty, along with students from public health, exercise science and social work.

The Easy Breather Exercise Table lays flat and looks stationary, but rocks back and forth when weight is placed upon it. The person on the table raises an attached bar and proceeds to pull up, rocking the table forward in the process. As the person pushes away, the table rocks backward, leaving the feet higher than the head. That motion forces air out of the lungs. Exhaling completely is often difficult for patients with COPD.

Bob Redden, a Southport resident and COPD sufferer, developed the table and found that it helped his symptoms, Reel said, but more testing will be needed to determine its potential to help COPD patients.

Kerr on exercise table

An interdisciplinary team is involved in testing the device for Exhale Fully, a Triangle-based company that is developing several versions of the table. The company initially plans to market the table as an exercise tool. In addition to Reel, the researchers include:

  • Jared Kerr, assistant professor in the clinical research program in the School of Nursing;
  • Robert Boyce, associate professor of health and applied science;
  • Susan Sinclair, associate professor in the School of Nursing’s Clinical Research Program;
  • and exercise science student David Giordano, a rising senior.

“The project integrates a professional team, a community partner and a North Carolina company,” Kerr said, noting that the researchers have worked with the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and met the inventor at Elite Innovations, a maker space in downtown Wilmington.

“It is often daunting for a small company to do scientific studies,” Kerr explained. UNCW’s team is providing the academic rigor and accepted testing methods necessary to get a product to market.

To begin with, he and his fellow researchers are recruiting healthy volunteers to try out the table, testing it for safety and usability. Already their work has led to a revision in the table’s design.

Researchers determined that the original model wasn’t ready for a study, so the manufacturer revised the design and sent the model that now sits in the Human Performance Lab in Trask Coliseum. “It’s very different – much smoother,” Reel said.

Before beginning the study, the researchers published articles in two medical journals, the Journal of General Practice and the Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education exploring conventional and complementary therapies for COPD.

For Giordano, who is minoring in neuroscience and chemistry and hopes to attend medical school, the project offers the chance to apply his classroom knowledge to research that may lead to a marketable product. “It helps me put it all together,” he said.

-- Tricia Vance




COPD Research Team

The COPD research team includes, from left to right, Justine Reel, David Giordano, Robert Boyce, Jared Kerr and Susan Sinclair.