Unlike what is believed by many people that exercise only adds burden to the deficient pulmonary function of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients, people with COPD need to do regular exercise within their capability. Quitting exercise completely can result in degraded muscles, bones, and joints, as well as a poor mental state. Proper exercises can provide adequate training and stimulation for your body and mind, improving your physical and mental states. Moreover, your respiratory muscles will be strengthened since you are intentionally controlling your breath during exercise. This article lists some examples of exercises that may be beneficial for people with COPD. But remember to check with your doctor about what and how much exercise you can do before going for one.
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio exercise, is any activity that increases heart rate and breathing. It's an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can be particularly beneficial for people with COPD for it allows their bodies to use oxygen more efficiently. Regular aerobic exercise can help improve your cardio and pulmonary function, alleviating breathing problems. The following are some aerobic exercises that may be suitable for people with COPD:
This is a low-intense and highly accessible activity that can be done almost anywhere and by most people. you can get your whole body moving with little effort that won’t burden you. Start with short walks and gradually increase the distance as your fitness improves. The benefit of walking can include an enhanced respiratory system, physical condition and mental state, and better digestion of food.
This is a more intense form of aerobic exercise that may be suitable for COPD patients who are in good physical condition with mild symptoms. It can improve your pulmonary capacity and immune system more efficiently than walking. But keep in mind this is an intense exercise that can probably aggravate your symptoms. So take your steps and do it slowly.
This is another low-impact activity that can be particularly helpful for people with COPD because you can get your whole body exercised while being supported by the buoyancy of the water
This can be done indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors on a road or mountain bike. On both occasions, you can take a rest on your bike anytime, which is good for COPD. It's important to start with moderate intensity and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness improves.
Specific breathing exercises, such as pursed-lip breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, can help improve the strength and endurance of respiratory muscles.
Diaphragmatic breathing, also called abdominal respiration, is breathing deeper with your diaphragm instead of your chest. It is commonly used for pulmonary rehabilitation. To do that, first, sit or lie in a comfortable position and relax. Then put your hands on your abdomen and breathe with your nose slowly. When your lungs are filled with air and your abdomen protrudes, exhale slowly. You will see your abdomen retracts as you exhale. Your exhale should last longer than your inhale. And your chest should not move throughout your breath, because chest moving usually signifies shallower breathing. Try to do it three to four times a day with 10 minutes for each time. This exercise can strengthen your diaphragm and let you breathe more easily.
Resistance training, also known as strength training, involves using weights or other resistance to build muscle strength. Some benefits of resistance training for people with COPD include:
- Improved muscle strength and function:Resistance training help improve the strength and function of muscles, which may be particularly important for people with COPD who may have decreased muscle mass and function due to the condition.
- Improved physical function:Stronger muscles can help to improve overall physical function, such as the ability to climb stairs or carry groceries.
- Improved quality of life:Resistance training may help to improve the overall quality of life by increasing the individual's ability to perform daily activities and participate in leisure activities.
Stretching exercises can be the best start for COPD patients who haven’t done any exercise for a long time or have limited mobility due to the condition as they help improve flexibility and range of motion. When you move on to other exercises, warm-up and post-exercise stretching can also benefit your recovery and lower the risk of getting hurt. Here are a few tips for incorporating stretching into your exercise routine:
- Start slowly:Begin with gentle stretches and gradually increase the intensity as your flexibility improves.
- Focus on major muscle groups:Consider stretching the muscles in your legs, back, and arms.
- Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds: It's important to hold each stretch for a sufficient amount of time to allow the muscles to relax and elongate.
- Stretch both sides equally:Make sure to stretch both sides of your body evenly to avoid muscle imbalances.
Some exercises like Tai chi and yoga combine physical and breathing exercises. These kinds of exercises require slow body movement, good control of muscles, and long and deep breathing. All of these meet the exercising needs of COPD patients precisely.
If you are on oxygen therapy, normally you should apply supplemental oxygen during exercise. Ask your healthcare provider about the flow rate and concentration you need for exercise because it may be different from daily use. If you currently use a home oxygen concentrator and need to exercise outside, switching to a portable oxygen concentrator may be more convenient.