Mounting evidence suggests that daily activity levels (DAL) in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are markedly low compared with healthy age-matched individuals and are associated with poorer health status and prognosis . COPD severity negatively impacts on DAL since patients with low DAL experience greater ventilatory, central haemodynamic and peripheral muscle oxygenation constraints during activities of daily living when compared with more physically active counterparts [2, 3]. Although exercise training as part of pulmonary rehabilitation has shown to mitigate the aforementioned physiological constraints , there is no evidence of clinically meaningful improvements in DAL following pulmonary rehabilitation  as manifested by a mean increase of at least 1000 steps·day−1 . This has been attributed to methodological shortfalls, such as lack of adequately controlled studies, small sample size, short duration of pulmonary rehabilitation programmes, application of activity monitors non-validated for COPD patients  and insufficient exercise intensities to induce true physiological training effects. Interval exercise training has been shown to allow application of intense loads to peripheral muscles that induce substantial physiological effects manifested by mitigation of respiratory and central haemodynamic limitations and partial restoration of peripheral muscle dysfunction in patients with diverse COPD severity [7, 8]. In this context, it is reasoned that application of this training modality would allow transfer of the aforementioned physiological benefits into clinically meaningful improvements in DAL [2, 3]. Accordingly, the purpose of this randomised controlled study was to investigate the effect of a 12-week high-intensity interval exercise training programme in DAL in addition to usual care in patients with COPD.