two people talking about their types of exercise

Community Feedback: Types of Exercise for COPD

Last updated: October 2019

When you first get diagnosed with COPD, it may seem like your future won’t include much exercise. But that’s far from the reality. In fact, as you most likely know, most doctors recommend exercise to keep your lungs and body as healthy as possible.

The trick is finding exercises that you can stick with, both physically and mentally.

To find out what types of exercise work best for members of the COPD community, we reached out to the Facebook group. We asked: “Who here is exercising? What exercises or kinds of fitness are you doing?”

We were so inspired by the flood of positive response. More than 150 of you shared—with enthusiasm—what is working best for you.

Here’s what you had to say.

Seated exercises for COPD

“I do chair yoga.”

Seated exercise can provide so many benefits, from increasing blood flow and flexibility to increasing muscle mass if you add weights. If exercising while in a chair works for you, keep doing it.

“I do chair yoga two times a week, and it really seems to be helping my breathing.”

“I do sitting and standing tai chi.”

Yoga and COPD

“Any kind of yoga helps.”

Likewise, all yoga can work wonders for most people, regardless of diagnosis. Yoga allows for so many modifications, accommodating anyone of any fitness level or ability. Plus, most yoga teachers have been trained to help find poses and modifications to suit everyone.

“Any kind of yoga helps. I’m in a class with mostly seniors in their late 70s. They do what they can. It’s not about keeping up with them—it’s about keeping up with yourself.”

Daily walking for COPD benefits

“I try to walk every day.”

By far, the most common response was walking. It’s easy and accessible, requiring nothing beyond a pair of shoes. It also provides an emotional benefit as time outdoors helps clear the mind and lift the mood.

“Walking is about all I get but will try to change that.”

“I try to walk every day.”

“I walk 3 miles a day.”

“I try to walk when it is cool enough — usually a couple of times a week.”

“I walk 30 minutes twice a week, and practice yoga.”

The positive effects of a dog on health

“I walk my dogs daily.”

Dogs provide so much motivation to go outside daily—it’s hard to look them in the eye without wanting to give them at least a quick stroll around the block. We especially love that some of you out there are walking the neighbors’ dogs. What a wonderful idea. You don’t need to commit to a dog of your own but can simply volunteer your services. Your neighbors and their pooches will thank you.

“I walk my dog and also still mow my yard.”

“I walk my dogs daily and do a walking tape two or three days a week.”

“I live in an apartment building and I walk my neighbors’ dogs for exercise. They have two pugs that I walk at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for 30 min. each walk. I walk another pug at 4:30 p.m. every day. I’m exhausted but I LOVE the dogs and they keep me going.”

Using a stationary bike with COPD

“I bike on a stationary bike 5 miles three times a week.”

More than a few of you cited that stationary bikes keep you on track and exercising regularly. Stationary bikes work for some, allowing you to work your legs without getting too winded. We love that some of you use the time to meditate or work on your breathing exercises for additional calming effects. Plus, it helps that you can ride your stationary bike regardless of the weather or traffic or any other outside factor.

“We just got a stationary bike from Amazon for $140 and I love it! I also do minimum strength training and am trying to do glute training to alleviate and strengthen my lower back muscles. It feels great. It was a really, REALLY, slow start but it’s progress every day. Now it’s a habit: I ride the stationary bike after my tea in the morning! I love it. Because I practice my deepest breathing techniques while reading intriguing books.”

“I bike on a stationary bike 5 miles three times a week, and work with machines and weights.”

Coaching and support

“I need a coach so I stay with it.”

For so many folks, the secret to consistency with exercise is external accountability—that is, knowing that a coach, workout partner or workout classmates will notice your absence. The easiest way to create this type of accountability is with a coach. Best of all, a coach can also help modify exercises that are too taxing for you and can provide extra encouragement.

“I’ve been riding the stationary bike 15 min a day. I just started back. I need a coach so I stay with it.”

“Weight lifting with a trainer—only because I won’t go if I don’t have an appointment...LOL. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done!”

The benefits of pulmonary rehab

“I go to pulmonary rehab.”

Many of you mentioned pulmonary rehab, a process that teaches you how to exercise while dealing with shortness of breath. Rehab can help you add more activity back into your life—or for the first time. It can include a variety of exercises, including the Nu Step seated cross trainer, which several of you named. The Nu Step allows you to stay seated while working both your arms and legs, giving a full-body workout without a full stress load.

“I am starting pulmonary rehab this month and will see what I can and cannot do. I’m excited to go!!!”

“I go to rehab two days a week, 2 hours a day, working out on the treadmill and bike. I also work my arm and nu step. Every little bit helps. Just keep moving as much as you can. If you are having a bad day, rest.”

“I go to pulmonary rehab. Mostly using 60 minutes of the treadmill and 60 minutes of nu step. I also do stretches with 2lb weights.”

“I go to pulmonary rehab, and do the exercises in the house each day.”

“I go to a COPD fitness class twice a week.”

If your community offers it, a COPD or pulmonary fitness class could be a good fit. Several of you mentioned that the class keeps you motivated, keeps exercise fun, and allows you to work out with those who are working through the same struggles—so it’s physical exercise and emotional support all at once.

“I go to a COPD fitness class twice a week. I love the people, and really enjoy meeting people who have the same problem. Would recommend it to everyone.”

“I completed pulmonary rehab and joined a pulmonary group. I highly recommend exercising together as it helps motivate us and makes it fun. I go on the treadmill and the stationary bike for thirty minutes and work on strength training. I also stretch for 30 minutes twice a week. I use my rescue inhaler less often and have fewer exacerbations. I have increased how far l can walk on my last 6-minute walking test.”

“I started a COPD Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. So far it consists of small hand weights, treadmill, and some pedaling, resistance bands. I don’t know if it’s helping me yet. I can't walk too far unless I’m pushing a cart or holding something. I’m hoping to gain some strength back.”

Workout ideas for those with COPD

We are so encouraged by how many of you are finding ways to make fitness work for you. And we wish to say thank you to everyone who shared so many great workout ideas for those with COPD.

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

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