Home > COPD: Using Exercise to Feel Better
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often makes it difficult to breathe, which in turn may limit how
active you are and how much you exercise. But it is important to remain active
and exercise when you have COPD. Activity and exercise can:
Exercises for COPD can be done nearly anywhere. They are
often done as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Heart problems,
coronary artery disease (CAD) or
high blood pressure, are common in people who have COPD
and may limit exercise options. You may need medical supervision when you start
COPD leaves you short of breath—uncertain and perhaps worried about your
ability to exercise. But a lack of activity means your muscles, heart, and
lungs continue to get weaker—resulting in greater shortness of breath, more
weakness, and less ability to exercise.
This harmful cycle can
depression, isolation, less independence, and a
immune system, making it difficult to prevent and
Shortness of breath in COPD can lead to a loss of
The cycle of shortness of breath, decreased
activity, and more shortness of breath can lead to a loss of
Continue to Why?
does not improve your lung function, it improves your body's ability to use
your existing lung function. Exercise builds muscle strength, improves
shortness of breath, and helps you to be more active—you will be able to do
more activities for longer amounts of time. This includes everyday activities
such as shopping or preparing food, as well as recreational activities with
friends. You may become less anxious about your shortness of breath, feel less
tired, and be more independent. Exercise also often improves how you feel about
yourself. All this can lead to an improved quality of life.
Exercising can help you:
Exercising can help you do more for longer
periods of time, feel less anxious about shortness of breath, and lead to
greater independence. All answers are correct.
Continue to How?
Exercises for COPD are
simple to do and take little time. They generally consist of aerobic exercises,
which increase oxygen flow to your muscles, and upper and lower body exercises,
which strengthen muscles.
Always consult with your doctor before
starting any exercise program. People with COPD may have heart problems, such
coronary artery disease (CAD) or
high blood pressure, that limit exercise options. You
may need medical supervision when you start your program.
become breathless while doing any of the exercises, rest in a position with
your shoulders supported (such as in a chair) and wait until you can breathe
To get started with an exercise program:
Aerobic exercises increase the
amount of oxygen that is delivered to your muscles, which allows them to work
longer. This helps you do more activities for longer periods of time.
Any exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended
period of time will improve your aerobic fitness. These exercises include
walking, using a treadmill, cycling or using a stationary bicycle, swimming,
and water aerobics.
Daily activities can also be aerobic: walking
to work or to run errands, sweeping (perhaps to fast-paced music), playing
actively with children, and walking your dog.
There is an easy
way to determine whether your heart rate is at the right level during aerobic
Talk to your doctor before starting aerobic exercise. He
or she will help you know how often and how long to exercise and how to set
your long-term exercise goals.
Knee extensions, leg lifts,
and step-ups develop lower body muscles and will help you move around more
easily for longer periods of time.
Talk to your doctor before
starting these exercises. He or she will help you know how often and how long
to exercise and how to set your long-term exercise goals.
Upper body exercises increase
strength in arm and shoulder muscles, which provide support to the rib cage and
can help improve breathing. They help in everyday tasks such as carrying
groceries and doing housework.
You should talk to your doctor before starting any
exercise program for COPD.
Always consult with your doctor before starting
any exercise program. People with COPD may have heart problems, such as CAD or
high blood pressure, that limit exercise options. You may need medical
supervision when you start the program.
Continue to Where?
Contact your doctor if
For more information about exercise and fitness in general,
see the topic
Return to topic:
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
November 29, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
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