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COPD

Updated 31 July 2019

Yes, you can still exercise if you have lung disease - here's how

When you suffer from lung disease, exercising – although challenging – can benefit your health in many ways.

Lung disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can turn exercising into a challenge. However, exercise can be a vital part of your routine to improve your overall health – as long as you keep a few things in mind before starting any workout regime.

Overexerting yourself could be fatal. But this does not mean that you should not exercise at all.

Why should I exercise with COPD?

Mild, regular exercise can be very beneficial to someone who has COPD, and can achieve the following:

  • Improve your circulation and the oxygen levels in your body.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Improve your COPD symptoms.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, which is beneficial for overall health.
  • Strengthen your cardiovascular system.

Consult your doctor first

When you want to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, it’s important to consult your healthcare professional first, as they can supply pointers on a suitable programme for your ability and fitness level.

When you want information about exercising with COPD, according to Cleveland Clinic you should ask the following questions:

  • How much exercise should I be doing each day?
  • What type of exercise should I be doing?
  • What type of exercise should I avoid?
  • When should I stop exercising?

What type of exercise is best for COPD?

For COPD, experts recommend aerobic exercise such as low impact aerobics, swimming and walking, because strenuous exercise could put the respiratory system under distress. You can easily incorporate 30 minutes of daily walking into your routine.

You can also incorporate light stretching and strengthening exercises such as yoga or Pilates, which is extremely beneficial for overall flexibility and muscle toning.

When should you stop?

Know the signs of respiratory distress. If your breathing becomes extremely laboured, even during mild exercise, it’s your body’s way of telling you to stop.

Tips for making the most of your workout

If you get the go-ahead from your doctor and you are ready to lace up, here are some more tips to help you:

  • Choose the proper time for a workout and wait at least an hour after you’ve eaten, as digestion draws oxygen away from the muscles and can make exercise harder.
  • Grab a workout buddy – exercising with COPD, no matter how mild, can still be risky. If there is someone with you, they can help administer medication or call emergency services if you are in distress.
  • If you exercise at a gym, inform a staff member or nurse on duty about your condition in case something goes wrong.
  • If you go for a walk alone, inform a family member or friend where you are going and how long you will be, just in case.
  • Breathe through pursed lips when it becomes hard to breathe. Alternatively, you can also follow the technique for belly breathing.
  • Exercise as soon as possible after taking your medication, as you will feel more energetic and exercise will be easier.
  • Choose an activity that you will genuinely enjoy, so that you can reap the benefits.
  • Always listen to your body and know when to take a rest day or stop exercising.
  • Check in with your doctor regularly to monitor your general condition and to keep track of your lung function.

Image credit: iStock