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.
“I’m thinking about getting a treadmill and exercise bike to use at home. What should I look for?”
This is a question I heard all the time when I was working in pulmonary rehab. Unfortunately, sometimes people didn’t ask us the question first, but just went out and purchased equipment without having all the information they should have. Sometimes a person in our program would come in one day, all excited, saying they bought a treadmill at a garage sale and that it was such a bargain! Then the next time they came in they’d tell us how difficult it was to operate, how much harder it was to walk on their treadmill at home and that they simply couldn’t use it. Oh my.
There are a wide range of features and levels of quality found in home exercise equipment, and there are definitely special considerations when you have COPD. It’s tempting to shop at a garage sale or thrift store for inexpensive equipment, but…buyer beware.
Here are a few of the many things to consider before you go out and look for treadmills and bikes to use at home.
• Make sure your treadmill is motorized. If you have COPD, it’s too hard to walk on a treadmill that requires you pushing the belt yourself.
• Get a treadmill that goes slow enough. Remember, when you have COPD, effective exercise is not about speed, but endurance. In other words, you don’t have to go fast to get a lot of benefit. If your treadmill can go as slow as 0.6 MPH, that’s great. If not, 0.8 MPH will give most people with severe COPD a nice warm-up and plenty of room to go faster if they’re able.
• Make sure your treadmill will run at a flat level, with no grade (uphill). It’s good to have the option of adjusting the grade at a slight incline if you’re able.
• Try to get a treadmill with a padded walking surface. This makes a big difference in the comfort of your feet and how tired you become.
• Choose a treadmill with an emergency shut off. This way if you trip and fall, the treadmill will automatically stop, giving you a chance to get up and dust yourself off from a surface that’s not moving.
• Look for equipment with sidebars for balance, in addition to a support bar in front of you.
**Treadmill tips: Position your treadmill so as you’re walking, you can look out a window with an interesting view, watch TV or listen to music with a peppy beat. Reading and eating while on the treadmill are not recommended! Looking up and looking around while maintaining a firm (not tight) grip on the rails will help you keep your balance.