If you have COPD, you should not attempt any exercise before consulting your doctor. Overexerting yourself could be fatal. But this does not mean that you should not exercise at all – on the contrary. Mild and regular exercise can be very beneficial to someone who has COPD.
A for aerobics. Aerobic exercise, such a low impact aerobics, swimming and walking are the correct choices for those with COPD. Exercise that is too strenuous should be avoided, as the respiratory system could easily become distressed. Mild exercise is recommended, but should be discussed with your doctor.
Be a quitter. If your breathing becomes laboured during mild exercise, it is your body's way of telling you to stop what you are doing. Carrying on exercising when you have breathing problems, is not only unwise, it could be fatal.
Choose your time. If you want to do something a bit physically strenuous, it is a good idea to wait until at least an hour after you have eaten. Digestion draws blood and its oxygen away from the muscles, so that they cannot really cope with extra demands.
Breathing treatment boost. Soon after taking your medicine or having breathing treatment, you may feel at your most energetic. This is a good time to take on activities that would usually be too strenuous for you.
Purse those lips. If you should feel breathless, use pursed lip breathing. This does make it easier to get enough oxygen.
Do it with a friend. If you have COPD, it is never a good idea to exercise alone. If you should become distressed, there should always be someone with you, who could help you to take your medication or call for medical assistance.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2008)
Visit the SA Thoracic Society for more information.