To Exercise or Not to Exercise
"Exercise cannot reverse lung disease, but it can reverse de-conditioning and improve your quality of life."1
We all know we should do it, but how many of us actually consider it as part of our daily management of COPD?
I am the administrator of a Facebook support group about exercise and healthy living with COPD. The group has members from all over the globe at different stages of the disease. The idea of the group is to provide inspiration and cheer each other on as we go through our daily lives.
If you follow my articles, then you already know my dislike for formal exercise routines. I understand the necessity of it, but I will spend a great deal of time grumbling about it.
There are many in my group that feel like I do. They complain ... they do it ... and like me, they always feel great after. Then there are the exercise gurus. They amaze me with their dedication to their daily walks, bicycle rides, swims, and other workouts.
Some are at early stages and started a regimen before COPD progressed further. Some were severe, tired of living breathless, and did something about it.
There is another group that doesn’t exercise out of anxiety and fear. They can barely walk across a room without being short of breath. They feel it is hopeless, so why bother? They might try once or twice, but get so breathless they give up.
I used to be one of those people. Some of the exercise gurus previously mentioned used to be one of those people.
Setting up a routine
My first time on a treadmill in pulmonary rehab lasted under 1 minute. Twenty-one sessions later, I was ready to conquer the world!
When the program was over, I stopped exercising at home. I did basic housework and cooking, thinking it would be enough. It didn’t take me long to go backward and feel my body becoming de-conditioned again. I was getting more short of breath and using my rescue inhaler 2 to 3 times per day.
I had to admit to myself that the thing I disliked most was going to help me live. That thing was exercise. I didn’t want it to be true. I set up a routine for myself at home. Sure enough, I was feeling better again. I was using my rescue inhaler less and I was able to be more active.
I started with chair exercises found on YouTube. I searched for pulmonary COPD exercises and found many from accredited hospitals. I started slow again, not able to finish the video all at once.
Every few days I added more time. I was finally able to finish the routine. What a feeling of accomplishment! I was also able to shower easier, cook dinner, and go out to lunch with some friends.
Start where you are
If you are still struggling with exercising or fearful of getting short of breath, just start. One step, move your arms, use water bottles as weights, whatever it takes. Set up a time and push yourself to do it.
You will get out of breath. It does get easier. Talk to your doctor about using your rescue inhaler first or increasing your oxygen if you use it. Talk to them about any restrictions you may have before starting exercise. Then go for it! It will get easier. Life will get better if you give it a chance.
Have you been to pulmonary rehab? Do you have a routine at home? What are your suggestions for someone newly diagnosed?
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Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.
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