Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. These are basic suggestions for people who have been approved to exercise under the supervision of a doctor or pulmonary rehabilitation professional. This is not intended as medical advice.
If you have COPD and are short of breath, chances are the last thing you want to do is exercise. But, of all the treatments for COPD, exercise might just be the one thing that makes the biggest difference in your physical – and emotional – well being.
Sure, it would be great if everybody with COPD could go to pulmonary rehab to learn how to exercise safely in a monitored environment. Unfortunately that’s not possible, so here are some exercise basics. Bring this information to your doctor and ask if it would be okay for you to start an exercise routine.
Types of Exercise
Stretching and flexibility exercises help improve your posture, movement and breathing. Stretching the right way can reduce, or even eliminate, muscle soreness brought on by exercise. Flexibility activities can reduce your chance of falls or other injuries.
Strengthening and resistance activities help build muscles, improve strength, and maintain bone health. Using hand weights and / or resistance bands and working with weight machines are good ways to increase your strength.
Endurance and aerobic exercise helps improve the function of your heart. Walking, biking, rowing, stepping, and swimming are endurance exercises. When done the right way this type of training builds stamina and endurance – with shortness of breath you can control.
Always use pursed-lips breathing during exertion of any kind, but especially with exercise. This will help you do more while feeling less short of breath. When you are lifting weights, exhale as you lift. Never hold your breath! Always keep your shoulders relaxed and use the diaphragmatic breathing technique also, if possible. If you become short of breath, stop and rest for a moment before starting again.
• Wear clothes that move with you, supportive shoes that fasten snugly and socks that cushion your feet and absorb sweat.
• If you have a quick-acting “rescue” inhaler, ask your doctor if it would be okay for you to use it fifteen minutes before starting to exercise. Doing this can help keep your bronchial airways as open as possible.
• If your doctor has recommended that you use supplemental oxygen during exertion, ask your O2 company to set you up with a portable, lightweight system – and make sure you know how long it will last!
• Start slowly, even if you feel you can do more. If you haven’t exercised in a while your body needs to get used to it again. Don't overdo it on the first day, no matter how motivated you are. A muscle that may not hurt today might tell you tomorrow loud and clear that you overdid it – and that could cause you to become discouraged. In some programs exercise time is increased by one minute each session (under the direction of an exercise specialist) unless you’re able to do more.