The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Is it Safe to Swim with a Lung Disease?
The diagnosis of a debilitating lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) comes along with a plethora of advice. Eat this, not that. Be aware of air pollutants in your home. Exercise your lungs. When it comes to swimming with COPD, it’s important to know if this particular exercise is right for you. Here are some pros and cons to swimming with lung disease:
Pros for Swimming with COPD
- Good for beginners. If you’re trying to get yourself moving for the first time in a while, swimming can be a great, non-intensive exercise.
- Easy on the joints. Years of walking and standing lead to your knees becoming battered and weak. Exercising in the pool—especially water aerobics—make a great alternative to other joint-stressful activities.
- Great for your heart. Suffering from a lung disease often goes hand-in-hand with excessive strain on your heart. The lack of oxygen on your blood forces your heart to work overtime, pumping more blood to make up for the low oxygen level. Low resistance exercises that are completed over long periods of time, like swimming, give the heart a great workout.
Cons for Swimming with COPD
- Chemically induced flare-ups. While the smell of chlorine may signal pleasant images in our brains of summertime and fun with friends, it could also signal a flare-up of COPD symptoms for those that suffer from lung disease. The chemicals can irritate the airways and induce cough and wheezing. Try to avoid indoor pools as the air is more saturated with chemical fumes than pools that are outdoors.
- It is easy to overdo it. It seems contradictory to the concept that swimming is good for beginners, but it is an exercise that can go from relaxing to excessive quickly. When you swim, you use your entire body, so your heart and lungs need to work fairly hard. Keep your exercises simple and build up over time.
- Watch out for the heat. Unfortunately, the best—and oftentimes the only—time of year to use an outdoor swimming pool is during the summer. Managing the heat with lung disease can be difficult and stressful. To combat this, drink plenty of water and watch the weather report. On really hot days, opt for an indoor exercise instead.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can be very helpful when considering a workout regiment. Just as important: knowing what your treatment options are. People are not limited to the everyday COPD treatments like expensive medications that simply manage symptoms and don’t treat the underlying disease. Today, stem cell therapy for lung disease is becoming a better alternative for the many sufferers of chronic lung diseases.