If chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) leaves you feeling tired and breathless, exercising may be the last thing you want to do. But the latest research shows exercise can be very beneficial. Here are seven tips to help you get started.
1. Start out slowly
Begin walking slowly at a comfortable pace for a short period (start with 5 to 10 minutes daily) three to five days a week. Do not increase walking time until you can do it the entire time without stopping to rest. Then increase walking time by 1 to 2 minutes each week.
2. Choose what you enjoy
There are many daily physical activities that provide your body with exercise, including gardening, golfing, or even shopping. If you like ballroom dancing, swimming, yoga, or Pilates, ask your doctor if they’re good options for you.
3. Use your oxygen
If you haven’t previously exercised, check with your doctor before starting to be sure it’s OK. If your doctor has prescribed oxygen for regular use, be sure to use it when you exercise because it will help relieve breathlessness.
4. Listen to your body
Stop exercising if you feel dizzy or weak, have palpitations, become short of breath, or experience discomfort. If you are in a great deal of pain, call your doctor.
5. Watch the weather
Don’t exercise outside on high-ozone days or on days that are too cold, hot, or humid. Extreme temperatures can make breathing difficult. But don't let the bad weather stop you—you can always walk around your local mall if you can’t exercise outdoors.
6. Be mindful of medications
If your medications change, ask your doctor whether the adjustment will affect your ability to exercise.
7. Keep it going
If you stop exercising regularly, all the gains you made will be lost. If you’re exercising as part of a pulmonary rehab program, you’ll need to incorporate your exercise routine into your daily life. If you’re a home-based exerciser, try some new workouts so you don’t get bored.
What else to know
While exercise does not directly improve lung function in those with COPD, it helps build your endurance, which improves how well your body uses oxygen. That means you won’t have to use as much energy to breathe, and you’ll be able to do more before you start feeling tired.