a woman does low impact stretches as her biceps and lungs fill with rainbows

Exercise and Exertion

When your doctor sits across the desk from you and tells you that you have COPD, your world is about to change. Everything you thought you knew in the past will be different now. You are about to embark on the fight of your life to save yourself.


Exercise will become your daily companion. Even if you never exercised a day in your life, you will need to learn to exercise now. If you refuse to move you are refusing to help yourself to breathe better. It is hard at first, mainly because you have not been taught the proper way to maintain your breathing patterns.

Respiratory rehab

Attending a respiratory rehab program is a luxury that many of us will have a chance to take part in. The facilitators are nurses and respiratory therapists who will teach you to control your breath and to use pursed lips during times of exertion. Most of the exercises are gentle and completed while in a sitting position. The education part will teach all about COPD, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and how to manage your thoughts through mindfulness and meditation.

Gentle upper and lower body

You will learn gentle exercises, usually using resistance bands, to exercise muscles from feet to upper body. Mostly you are sitting but there are some standing exercises too. You are encouraged to take a deep breath deep into your abdomen to begin the exercise and to exhale through pursed lips as you exert yourself. You will determine the pace that you will go at. The idea is that you do not ever become short of breath. You are checking vital signs regularly, making space for rest and recovery as necessary. If your exercise regimen makes you short of breath, you should rethink it.

Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non judgmentally. It will help you to control the frightening things your brain tells you are going to happen. This is pure power; the power to overcome anxiety and fearfulness. Soon you will be able to tackle that flight of stairs. You will gain a better concept of how to do things while exerting yourself without becoming short of breath.

Supplemental oxygen

If you have been prescribed supplemental oxygen it is because you have dyspnea or shortness of breath, and cannot get enough oxygen into your lungs using room air. Use it when you are exerting yourself. Some people need it to walk across the room; others only use it when exercising. Perhaps it is necessary to use it when you are showering, exercising, and eating. You are the best judge of what you require but starving your body of supplemental 02, when you need it, can lead to other comorbidities.

No supplemental oxygen

There are some people who suffer from dyspnea even though they have normal 02 levels. These people cannot take supplemental oxygen and must persevere with dyspnea or shortness of breath on their own.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Do you have an exercise routine?