You might think that trying to stay fit and active once you have a diagnosis of COPD makes no sense. After all, if you're struggling to breathe just from getting dressed or eating a meal, how can you even think about exercising?
I hear you, and I see this struggle in my mother every single day. But the truth is, if you can stay as active as possible, you will feel better and you will breathe easier for a longer time, especially if staying active also helps you keep your weight in a healthy range.
In previous posts, I've talked about how being overweight can make the business of breathing with COPD a lot tougher. I've also talked about how to incorporate the building blocks of healthy eating into your daily routine -- to maintain a healthy weight and also to have the energy you need to get through each day. Being as active as possible is another step in that plan.
It's a Challenge... But It's SO Worth It
I know staying active is challenging when you have trouble breathing even at rest. But I'm not asking you to run a marathon or win the mile. I'm not even asking you to do anything near to what people without COPD do. But I am suggesting that you move your body as much as you can every single day.
If you do that, you'll keep your bones, muscles and joints moving and relatively strong for the duration. You'll also strengthen your heart and lungs and help prevent infection and other illnesses that can complicate the course of COPD.
There are many benefits to being fit, including sleeping better, having more energy, losing weight and reducing depression, for example. So do what you can and don't be afraid to push yourself a little beyond what you think you can do. It'll pay off!
10 Steps to Getting Fit
You know your body best, so do what you can from the following list. And also, do check with your doctor before beginning any new activity program.
1. Start slowly, but DO make a change. Don't overdo it, but do start to make small changes in your daily routine to add activity to it. For instance, if you watch TV, stand up during commercials and walk down the hallway or to the front door a few times, as tolerated. If you drive to the store, park a little farther back in the lot and walk to the door. If even that's too much, then try doing some chair exercise, such as leg lifts or arm raises for 30 seconds at a time, several times a day.
2. Add more activity as it gets easier. Your tolerance for activity, even if you have COPD, will increase over time as you get more fit. So, when what you've been doing starts to seem easy, then add something more challenging. Maybe you're ready to walk around the block or dance around your living room during TV commercials! Start out with 10 minutes of exercise at a time, and slowly increase to at least 30 minutes a day if you can. Once you've done that, you can also increase the intensity of your activity, if you feel able.
3. Listen to your body. If you've started slowly, then your body will probably respond positively, but if you find that you're developing excessive soreness, muscle strains or are exhausted, then you may be doing too much too soon. So back down a bit and regroup. Or take a rest day, then get back on the proverbial horse and get going again. But take it slower next time!