The official blog of the Lung Institute.
With the twin burdens of reduced lung capacity and portable oxygen tanks, strenuous physical activity can be difficult for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and often discourages them from any physical activity.
One might think that activities such as mountain biking and competing in triathlons would be out of the question for people with COPD, but athletes with COPD breaking stereotypes, like Russell Winwood and Roxlyn Cole defy expectations, spreading awareness of their condition to show what is possible.
After many years of smoking, Russell Winwood, 49, from Brisbane, Australia, was diagnosed with COPD in 2011, after he noticed shortness of breath while training for his first Ironman event. Having suffered a stroke years earlier at age 36, he had turned his life around, starting his journey toward becoming a COPD Athlete. After the stroke, Winwood gave up smoking, cut back on drinking alcohol and adopted a healthier diet. Over the next eight years, Winwood competed in multiple triathlons, a half Ironman and a couple of ultra-marathons.
He was diagnosed with stage-IV COPD, which results in severe airflow limitation and can lead to times when everyday activities, such as showering or brushing one’s teeth, can leave a person breathless and exhausted. Yet Russell is determined not to be defined by his disease. He participates in triathlons and cycling events and, in his words, “makes the best of good days.”
Roxlyn Cole, 77, hasn’t let COPD slow her down. Diagnosed with COPD in early 2003, she invited her pulmonologist to join her for the American Lung Association-sponsored Fight for Air Climb.
Dr. Bates, Cole’s pulmonologist, has seen his patient make great strides, saying “She’s taken a disease which for many people knocks them down and used it as a rallying point.”
Cole will be climbing for her 11th consecutive year as a Fight for Air Climb participant.
Staying motivated to workout is tough when you have a disease like COPD. Athletes with COPD face the same physical obstacles and mental hurdles as anyone with COPD. The thought of doing something that will make you breathless when you’re already struggling to breathe isn’t appealing and requires mental toughness.
For others with lung disease, a more realistic goal may be much simpler than a triathlon or the Fight for Air Climb. The important thing is to set goals and stay motivated. Talk with your doctor about exercise goals that fit your needs, such as walking, yoga or Tai Chi.
Awareness and understanding of the effects of lung disease and symptom management are necessary to keep moving forward. Like these athletes with COPD breaking stereotypes, you can improve your quality life, too. Some have found that stem cell therapy for lung disease has improved their quality of life and made breathing easier.
Many COPD sufferers have found relief after receiving stem cell therapy from the Lung Institute, and some are able to exercise more. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, contact one of our patient coordinators today about stem cell therapy at (800) 729-3065.