How to Successfully Lose Weight With COPD

Health Writer

Obesity has important effects on the respiratory system and can worsen COPD symptoms. Extra weight means an extra load on your lungs which can lead to higher respiratory rates and decreased lung volumes. Weight loss can reverse these changes. However, when you are living with a chronic condition like COPD, weight loss may require a different approach. Read ahead to learn about how you can lose the weight and feel your best.

Change your mindset

Our thoughts become our affirmations. Therefore, if you are constantly thinking that you cannot lose weight because of your COPD, you are making that idea more concrete and are telling your body not to lose weight. Instead of thinking negatively, congratulate yourself on the weight that you will lose in advance. Purchase a few pieces of clothing in your desired size. Practice sayings such as, “my disease has helped me to be in the best shape of my life.” These mindset shifts will make a difference. Our brains love to be right.

Investigate your medications

Weight gain is a common side effect of some medications for COPD such as steroids. If you believe that at least one of the medications you are taking is preventing you from losing weight, talk to your doctor. There may be a substitution for that medication without the side effects. You can also speak to your doctor about lowering the dosage or experimenting with cycling off the medication temporarily while you lose the desired weight.

Sleep more

COPD is a condition that can complicate sleep. One-third to one-half of all people with COPD have sleep disorders. Unfortunately, there is a very clear link between insufficient sleep and the development and management of a number of chronic diseases including obesity according to the Centers for Disease Control. One of the most important functions that happens during our time asleep is hormone balancing. When our hormones are not recovered during rest time, we are more likely to lack appetite control, more likely to eat the wrong foods, and feel too tired to exercise. If you are not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night, it is important that you talk to your doctor about strategies to increase your rest time to help you with weight reduction.

Control your stress

Chronic disease can be extremely stressful. There are many pathways that connect stress and weight gain according to the Annual Review of Psychology. Stress can affect your behavior and cause you to choose foods that are higher in sugar and fat. Stress also changes hormones that are important to maintaining a healthy weight. Stress control is very individual and will require some experimentation on your part to see what works to relax you. Stress control may also require a team approach. You may need to ask your family, friends, and doctors to help you come up with a strategy to reduce your stressors. Involving others in a goal can give them increased interest and therefore help in your success.


COPD can impact your ability to exercise. When it is hard to breathe, you may be tempted to do less. However, the less you do, the less you can do. The Cleveland Clinic recommends including a warm-up, conditioning phase, and a cool-down in your exercise program if you have COPD. The warm-up phase can slowly increase your breathing and can include stretching or starting your activity at the low intensity level. The conditioning phase will be where most of your calories are burned. The time of your conditioning phase will be very short when you first begin, but then will increase as you get in better shape. This phase may include brisk walking, water aerobics or riding a stationary bike as examples. You will want to feel moderate exertion in this phase. The cool-down phase will then allow your body to gradually recover and bring your heart rate near to your resting values. This phase will include activities like the warm-up phase.

Exercise should also include some muscle strengthening. This can be done using free weights or resistive bands according to the COPD Foundation and should be done three times a week.

Before you begin a new exercise program, talk to your doctor about any further recommendations based on your condition. It may take time to find a program that works for you, but the effort will be well worth it.

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