Exercising when you have trouble breathing seems counter-intuitive. And many people are afraid it will make COPD symptoms worse. But exercise for COPD improves symptoms and quality of life for people living with the chronic disease.
Exercise won’t reverse your COPD, but it has positive effects that can improve COPD symptoms.
- Regular activity improves circulation and makes the body use oxygen more efficiently.
- Losing weight and extra body fat puts less stress on your respiratory system.
- Aside from physical condition, exercise improves mental health by reducing stress and anxiety.
Exercise for COPD
Exercising with COPD can be as simple as using your legs to get from point A to B.
Walking even a few blocks each day is an excellent first step to increasing activity levels with COPD. Low intensity walking from 2–4 miles a day could even reduce your likelihood of a hospital visit.
To help you stay motivated, join a walking group or arrange to walk with friends instead of a typical sit-down visit.
2. Do Something You Love
One of the most difficult parts of starting any exercise program is creating long-term lifestyle change. That’s why it’s so important to find activities you truly enjoy.
Walking or cycling for transportation is an easy way to add exercise into your daily life. But some people prefer activity that engages their brain or incorporates socialization. Whether it’s golf, bowling, or bird-watching excursions, find an activity that makes you happy, and then do it as often as possible.
3. Tai Chi
With slow, methodical movements and mindful breathing, Tai Chi is geared towards people of all ages and fitness levels. There hasn’t been much research about Tai Chi and COPD, but the practice seems to improve quality of life and walking capabilities in people with COPD.
4. Weight/Strength Training
Add weight training to your daily routine to strengthen muscles and make other physical activity easier. Start with 2–3 lb weights for simple exercises like bicep curls and arm raises, or use household items like soup cans or water bottles.
5. Breathing Exercises
Practicing breathing exercises can strengthen your diaphragm and improve your breathing during exercise. To practice diaphragmatic breathing, inhale through your nose so that your stomach (not your chest) rises, then exhale through pursed lips while contracting your abs. Do this for 10 minutes several times each day and you’ll begin to breathe this way normally.
6. Introduce Exercise Gradually
Exercise with COPD shouldn’t tax your lungs to the point of increased stress. Start slowly, especially if you’ve been inactive for a long period.
Try adding one short walk to your routine every second day, even if it’s only to the end of the block. Gradually increase the distance travelled at a level that’s comfortable for you.
7. Exercise with Oxygen
If you use supplemental oxygen throughout the day, you can use it during exercise to improve performance. Ask your doctor about options for smaller portable tanks that are easier to use outside of the house.
8. Get Professional Help
Talk to your doctor about how much activity they feel you can safely perform. They might refer you to a pulmonary rehab program where a team of specialists will help you with exercise and breathing techniques.
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DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.