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Exercise for People with COPD

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week spotlights the importance of respiratory therapists and pulmonary rehabilitation programs in improving the health outcomes and quality of life for patients with chronic lung disease. These programs can include breathing retraining, education, and counseling. Often, an important aspect of these programs is carefully managed physical exercise. Read on to learn about the value of exercising with COPD and how to talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program for you.

 Exercising with Supplemental Oxygen

What Can Exercise Do for Chronic Lung Disease Patients?

If you have chronic lung disease, it's vital that you speak with your healthcare provider about starting an exercise program, as they can help you find a program that fits your needs and physical condition. Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits:

  • Improvement in COPD symptoms.
  • Improved circulation and better oxygen utilization.
  • Stronger respiratory muscles.
  • Stronger cardiovascular health.
  • Better quality sleep.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduced body fat.
  • Increased energy and endurance.
  • Increased strength and muscle tone.
  • Improved joint strength and flexibility.
  • Improved balance.
  • Stronger bones.
  • Stress relief as well as relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Improved morale and self-image.

Exercising for Lung Health with COPD

Types of Exercise for People with COPD and Chronic Lung Disease

There are 3 basic types of exercise, all with benefits for people with chronic lung disease:

  1. Stretching: Improves flexibility and helps you warm up while preventing muscle strain and injury. Can also include mindfulness exercises like yoga and Tai Chi.
  2. Aerobic: Heart-healthy exercise that improves circulation, lung and heart strength, and oxygen utilization. Includes exercises like walking, biking, and swimming.
  3. Resistance or Strength Training: Builds muscle strength and mass through repeated muscle contractions, often using a resisting force like a taut band or weight. Upper body strength training an be especially useful for chronic lung disease patients by increasing respiratory muscle strength.

Oxygen Levels During Exercise

Tips for Exercising with COPD and Chronic Lung Disease

When embarking on an exercise program, you'll want to ask your doctor a lot of questions about working out most safely and effectively with your respiratory condition. You may have questions about:

  • Using supplemental oxygen: You should exercise with it, and your doctor may adjust your flow rate for physical activity.
  • Where to exercise: This can include any location from your home to a local gym or fitness center. Ask your doctor for suggestions based on your needs.
  • Sticking to a regular routine: It helps to set achievable daily goals, modify activities you enjoyed before developing your disease, and get in as much physical activity, however minor, during the course of your normal daily routine.
  • Appropriate exercises: Your doctor can help you develop a program or recommend you to a specialist (respiratory or physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or personal trainer) who can design a program for you.

 

Breathing effectively is important during physical activity. Remember to:

  • Inhale (breathe in) before starting an exercise motion and exhale (breathe out) during the most difficult part of an exercise.
  • Take slow breaths and pace yourself.
  • Purse your lips while breathing out.

Please consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional before stopping or starting any medications, supplements, or health regimens. 

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