Even small amounts of physical activity can improve symptoms and promote general health in people with any stage of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy. Resistance training such as weight-lifting builds muscle strength – including breathing muscles – and healthy bones as well as making you less prone to injury and quicker to recover from injuries. Stretching activities such as yoga can improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion as well as relaxing your muscles and joints. Any exercise can lessen symptoms of fatigue and depression and provide social interaction.
Fatigue and breathlessness lead many people with COPD to give up on exercise and become increasingly sedentary. Many people with COPD believe that exercise will cause their symptoms to become worse. However, the reverse is true. Physical activity can improve symptoms, while remaining sedentary exacerbates symptoms and contributes to the development of osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.
What does it involve?
Always check with your doctor before beginning new exercise regimen. Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonary rehabilitation program designed to meet your specific exercise needs.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Always begin your workout session with a gradual warm-up and take time to cool down afterward. Warming up and cooling down will help prevent sore or pulled muscles. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine.
If you have severe COPD or have not been physically active lately, begin exercising for just a few minutes at a time. Use supplemental oxygen if you need it. Try not to become discouraged if you cannot do very much exercise. Focus on slow, gradual progress. If you have poor lung function, try breathing during exercise using a pursed-lip technique, which has shown to improve exercise tolerance.
It is important to choose a type of exercise you will enjoy. Consider joining a class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects.
Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Dancing, walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, climbing stairs, or swimming can all provide effective exercise for your heart and lungs.
Resistance training such as lifting weights can be done seated, and it can involve as light a weight as you are comfortable lifting. Even small amounts of weight or resistance – for instance, lifting your arms or legs repeatedly against gravity – provide benefits.
Be creative. Activities such as gardening and walking a pet can help you stay active and healthy.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning an exercise regimen. Focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. If you experience new or worse COPD symptoms, adjust your workout program to keep it safe and rewarding.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best physical and psychological condition. A regular exercise regimen can reduce breathlessness and fatigue, increase strength, promote healthy weight, stave off heart disease and osteoporosis, and improve your mood and self-esteem. It can help you avoid injury and recover more quickly.
A 2014 study of 6,000 Californians hospitalized with COPD found that those who regularly exercised were at least 33 percent less likely to be readmitted within the next 30 days.
Other studies have established links between physical inactivity and higher rates of hospitalization and death among people with COPD.
COPD symptoms such as fatigue and breathlessness can make it difficult to stay motivated to keep up with exercise. Side effects of medication such as nausea and dizziness can also interfere.
If you exercise too hard, you may feel more pain than usual for a day or two afterwards. Soreness is a sign that you should take it a little easier next time. If one type of exercise does not work for you, consider trying another.
Exercise May Curtail COPD Complications – WebMD
Exercise with COPD – Healthline
COPD Exercise & Activity Guidelines – Cleveland Clinic
Pursed lip breathing improves exercise tolerance in copd: a randomized crossover study. – PubMed