a man walking on a treadmill thinking about his lungs and breathing

Exercise and COPD Awareness

Last updated: November 2019

One of the first things that you will be told upon your diagnosis with COPD is that you must exercise daily. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will be enrolled in a Respiratory Rehabilitation Program. For some of us, and for various reasons like distance and time, we cannot attend. Some of us have been there years ago and could use a refresher on times, weights, and techniques. Exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate the fatigue and anxiety that come with COPD.

Cardio and legs

Your legs should be moving all the time. With each sitting task you do, take many breaks, walking the length of your living quarters several times a day. This adds some slow steady steps to your daily count. If you have trouble walking, try using a walker to assist you.

Finding a way to peddle those feet on a regular basis will take care of cardio and help to keep your heart and lungs strong. Using an exercise bike, a peddler or a treadmill works best. If the weather is good and you can walk outside, go for it. I use a peddler or my treadmill every day while I watch my favorite TV shows in the evening.

Arms, chest, and upper body

If you use a peddler, put it on the counter and continue peddling with your arms. Also, using weights is a great way to strengthen and improve the performance of your upper body, and you can do it while sitting down. Going to respiratory rehabilitation should give you a starting point on upper body exercise. If you have not attended, you should have a conversation with your doctor about a good starting point for you. Remember that it is not about the weight that you use, rather it is about using the weights regularly. When your weights become to easy it is time to increase the weight.

Breathing and abdominal

One of the things that accompanies COPD is anxiety because there is nothing worse than not being able to breathe. Our main goal is to breathe and to take care of ourselves. Learning to control your breathing is one of the things that will make you successful with COPD. Keep your thoughts on your breathing and concentrate on it alone, pushing all other thoughts out of your mind. When you lose track of your breathing, quickly bring your mind back to your breath. This is a mindfulness practice that has helped me many times.

So, let’s not forget to do abdominal breathing daily. Every one of us has been taught Pursed Lip Breathing (PLB). That is taking a deep breath in through your nose. If you put your hand on your abdomen you will feel it rise. That means you are taking the breath deep into your abdomen, then slowly releasing that breath slowly out through pursed lips.

Do it while you are sitting idly so that when you need your breath, PLB will come to you naturally. Practice it while you are exercising and during any time you are exerting yourself.

Stay true to yourself

Stay true to yourself by exercising daily and challenging yourself to do a bit more each day. There is no shame in starting out with chair exercises and working up to doing bikes and treadmills. Remember that the internet is full of exercise regiments for free. Check out YouTube and Pinterest. By doing this you will likely ease the symptoms of COPD and be ready if and when our medical miracle presents itself.

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