The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Many people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) wonder if it’s good for them to exercise. COPD symptoms make breathing difficult. Feeling concerned about exercising when you have COPD is normal. Often, people ask, “Is exercise good for COPD?” We’re here to help you better understand COPD and exercise.
COPD and Exercise
Typically, most people with COPD are afraid to exercise because they don’t want to worsen their COPD symptoms. However, inactivity could worsen COPD symptoms over time. This happens because inactivity often leads to decreased muscle mass and a decline in cardiovascular function. The heart and lungs must work together to deliver oxygen to the body.
However, exercise has the potential to reduce shortness of breath and other COPD symptoms. As you exercise, you gradually strengthen your muscles and improve your stamina. Regular exercise and physical activity also helps your body use oxygen better and can improve circulation. This helps your body work more efficiently.
What Kinds of Exercise Could Help?
There are different kinds of exercise that help the body in different ways. Under the supervision and guidance of your doctor, combining these types of exercise may help you.
- Cardiovascular Exercise: Also known as aerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise involves using large muscle groups and works to strengthen your heart and lungs. It also has potential to improve how effectively your body uses oxygen.
- Strength Training: This type of exercise works to improve your strength. As you build muscles, your body will feel stronger and more capable of doing more activities.
- Stretching: When you stretch, you help keep your muscles from getting too tight. Stretching works to improve your flexibility and can help your body stay more relaxed.
- Breathing for COPD and Exercise: Breathing exercises can be incredibly useful for people living with COPD. As COPD and exercise can be challenging, learning how to breathe effectively can help reduce stress and shortness of breath.
Remember to use caution when exercising with COPD. While exercise can be beneficial for people with COPD, increasing your activity and exercise level too quickly could cause shortness of breath or other COPD symptoms. That’s why it’s important to discuss COPD and exercise with your doctor before changing or starting an exercise plan.
How Often Do I Need to Exercise?
The frequency that you exercise will depend on many factors. These factors include the severity of your COPD symptoms and your current level of activity. You and your doctor will work together to develop the best exercise plan for you.
It’s important to be balanced for COPD and exercise. You don’t want to overdo it. Start out by talking with your doctor about your exercise goals and follow the plan your doctor recommends. Many people start out slowly and very gradually increase the amount of physical activity they do.
For example, you may start out walking from one room of your house to another room of your house a few times a day. You may also begin by practicing breathing exercises. Breathing exercises help you learn how to coordinate your breathing as you increase your physical activity. Some people do upper body strength building exercises with canned vegetables. Over time, you will find it easier to be more physically active and may start to increase your exercise level.
If at any time you feel very short of breath or notice an increase in your COPD symptoms, sit down, stay calm and call your doctor.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for COPD and Exercise
Some doctors recommend their COPD patients attend pulmonary rehabilitation. In pulmonary rehab, you learn how to exercise and breathe efficiently under the care and supervision of a team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. Pulmonary rehab combines exercise, education and support to help you learn how to breathe and function at the highest level you can.
As you participate in pulmonary rehab, you will learn how to exercise on your own in a safe environment. Many people see great benefits from pulmonary rehab, including improved quality of life, increased muscle strength and endurance, reduced shortness of breath and better breathing. Ask your doctor if pulmonary rehab could be right for you.
You’re Ready to Take the Next Steps
Now is the best time to take care of your health. While it may seem really hard and a little scary, slowly starting an exercise plan under the guidance of your doctor could have great benefits for you. Even gentle exercises like walking, yoga and Tai Chi build strength and stamina. Talk with your doctor about your exercise concerns and goals before your start exercising. Follow your COPD treatment plan exactly as prescribed by your doctor, too. Over time, you may find yourself feeling better and more active.
At the Lung Institute, we want to help you live the fullest life possible. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065 to learn more.