Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and an important cause of disability. A thorough patient-centered outcome assessment, including not only measures of lung function, exercise capacity, and health-related quality of life, but also functional capacity and performance in activities of daily life, is imperative for a comprehensive management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This American Thoracic Society Seminar Series is devoted to help clinicians substantiate their choice of functional outcome measures in this population. In Part 1 of this two-part seminar series, we describe the various domains of functional status to elucidate terms and key concepts intertwined with functioning and to demonstrate the clinical relevance of assessing functional capacity in the context of activities of daily living in agreement with the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health. We hope that a better understanding of the various defining components of functional status will be instrumental to healthcare providers to optimize chronic obstructive pulmonary disease evaluation and management, ultimately leading to improved quality of life of patients afflicted by this condition. This first article also serves as an introduction to Part 2 of this seminar series, in which the main functional tests available to assess upper and lower body functional capacity of these patients are discussed.