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two people talking about their types of exercise

Community Feedback: Types of Exercise for COPD

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 COPD.net 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.

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.

Comments

  • Gentlewinds
    4 days ago

    I subscribe to Lift Pulmonary Rehab which is online. Each day I receive videos with new exercises for strength, endurance and flexibility. The daily program lasts from 30 minutes to an hour. All exercises can be done in the house and with little or no equipment. In addition, there are educational videos on nutrition, breathing, and the disease. Highly recommend it!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 days ago

    Hi Gentlewinds, and thanks for sharing what you have been successful with when it comes to a form of pulmonary rehabilitation. It sounds like you are able to do whatever you need to with this program at home. We appreciate you commenting here. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • monty
    5 days ago

    Hi everyone, This is my first time on this site. I am interested in finding out about the Pulmonary Rehab. This is the first time I’ve heard of it. Can someone please tell me about what you do, and is it beneficial? Where would I go to check it out? Thank you

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Hi monty, and welcome. You’ve certainly come to the right place as our COPD.net website is all about all things COPD. Pulmonary rehabilitation has proven to be very successful for many patients with COPD. We have a wealth of information about this type of program. I thought initially, you might gain some additional insight from this article: https://copd.net/living-with-copd/pulmonary-rehab/. I think you’ll find it provides an overview of this type or care. I do hope you find it to be helpful. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Linda
    5 days ago

    I joined a Pulmonary Rehab class about 4 years ago and it really helped. It only last about 6 weeks and after that I found it very difficult to stay on track. I got pneumonia a couple times and ended up in the hospital. Each time seemed to have set me back and took months to gain my energy back. My last hospital stay was in June of this year. It’s taken me months to feel like doing anything physical but after quite a few weeks of dealing with water retention in my legs and feet. I am now going up and down stairs (at least) twice a day. With swollen feet and legs it was harder coming down the stairs than going up. I walk inside quite a bit with a rollator (for balance) I get anxiety attacks which sometimes makes it very difficult to leave the house. We’ve had a very humid summer. I’m hoping with the cooler weather, I’ll be able to get outside more. I have a back porch I love to sit on when the weather is nice. Right now as I sit here at my computer, my legs and lower back hurt from arthritis due to the fact that it’s damp and raining outside. Ha, seems I can’t win…….but I keep trying. I quit smoking over 5 years ago and I’m almost 73 years old. I’ve been good lately, at least I’m not getting worse.

    Everyone have a breath easy night. ~Linda~

    P,S. I’m a member of Silver Sneakers but have yet to start it.

  • kcarpeneti
    4 days ago

    I am also a Silver Sneakers member, and just today I went to my first session at the YMCA, I am really hopeful this will get me going and I stick with it. I have an appt with a personal trainer next week. I am 73 but need too late to get with it. I was jus diagnosed with COPD about 6 months ago, but I am sure I have had it for a while.

  • Linda
    2 days ago

    Hi kcarpeneti, I get too many things started at one time, then I loose track of what I’m doing. It’s constant battle learning to slow down. I also think I’m ADHD. which doesn’t help my situation. I’ll be 73 in November. I do pay attention to the emails I get from Silver Sneakers and do some of the exercises sitting on a chair. I believe every little thing helps. ~Linda~

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    4 days ago

    That’s really great, kcarpeneti! I love that you’re going to try a personal trainer. The idea of having someone work one on one with you is great! I hope you really like it. One of the benefits is learning to exercise correctly so that you don’t injure yourself. Please update us on your progress and how it goes with the trainer.
    Best, Lyn (site moderator)

  • olHip
    5 days ago

    I for one exercise everyday. I walk and use a yoga ball that I vigorously bounce on for several hours a day. I have lost weight and it helps me with the SOB. I seem to be getting better not worse with this COPD. I quit smoking the day I found out I had it. Added more supplements and they have helped a lot too. Like red ginseng and turmeric and a few others. I am trying to reverse the damage it has done to me. I am 67 now and retired. My blood pressure is that of a teen and my heart is in great shape. Thank God everyday for letting me get up and do what I do.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Hi olHip, and thanks for joining in this conversation. Glad to hear all you’ve been doing seems to provide such relief for you. The exercising (walking), yoga, losing weight, and quitting smoking, can all have a positive impact on slowing down the progression of this condition. Keep up the good work! We appreciate your input. Leon (site moderator)

  • Amanda1
    5 days ago

    That was such a helpful article,thank you all.I have never heard of pulmonary rehabilitation either,I will ask if we have it near me.At the moment I do very little I,m afraid due to pain in arms and legs,but I have just fished out my old ( big) Hula Hoop,so will see how that goes.This is a wonderful community and so helpful,I don’t comment often as I overthink everything so say nothing!. Thank you all again,wishing you all the very best, Mandy

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Hi Amanda1 and thanks for chiming in here. Pulmonary rehabilitation is something that many of our community members have spoken about in a positive way. I thought this article might provide you with some additional insight as to what a program is like: https://copd.net/living-with-copd/pulmonary-rehab/. We appreciate your kind words about our online community – please know you are always welcome here! Please do check back and let us know how everything turned out with that Hula Hoop of yours!! Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 days ago

    Hi again, Amanda1, and thanks for your recent response, below. We’re happy to be of assistance – it’s what our COPD.net site and team is all about!
    It’s funny you are using a Hula Hoop again. Recently, we found an old one in the house – I tried it and it took me forever to get it going – it’s not as easy as I remember when I was younger. So, I find it admirable that you have taken it up again – it’s supposed to be great exercise!!
    Enjoy your weekend, too!
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Amanda1
    2 days ago

    Thank you so much Leon,I,m grateful for the help,its much needed!.I,m loving hula hooping again,just happy no one can see me!. Have a wonderful weekend

  • Welshdragon
    5 days ago

    Hi guys I find exercise twice a week has really helped with controlling copd I do the treadmill 20 min just walking , on the bike for 20 min and I do the rower 2000 mtr which I try and beat my last time without straining myself ,if you slowly do what you can for a limited time and slowly try and better it you will feel you are achieving something take your own time to do things and I hope you guys feel better in yourself .

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Hi Welshdragon, and thanks for sharing your exercise schedule with which you have been so successful. We appreciate your candor here with the community! Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Cynthiajk
    5 days ago

    Good morning all, I’m going on vacation to a rural cabin with my 2 sisters and our 3 dogs in a couple of days. An annual event for the last decade. I have finally recovered from ill effects of the high-dose flu shot. Took over two weeks! I had time to do some thinking and I intend to resume my exercise program (elliptical bike and treadmill) and also work on my attitude. It is unfortunately all too easy to sort of slide back into “poor me” and I need to just get over myself. This blog has been a lifesaver for me, the positive conversation is beyond value. God bless and thank you for reading!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Hi Cynthiajk, and thanks for this post. Glad to hear that you have finally recovered from the high-dose flu shot. I remember when you posted about the shot a couple of weeks ago.
    And now, you’ve recovered to the point you are able to go away, as you always do, with your sisters and dogs.
    I think it’s a good idea to get back into your normal routine schedule of exercising. There is nothing like staying active (with exercise, when possible) to help to manage this condition successfully.
    We also appreciate your kind words about our COPD.net website and its blogs. We’re glad to have YOU as a participating member of this community.
    Enjoy your vacation and please do keep in touch!
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Pooche
    6 days ago

    Pooche. I didn’t not know about Pulmonary rehab, my doctors never mention any to me about that. I have to use oxygen all day and night. The next appt I am going to ask him, about this program. Now about my breathing without the oxygen I would be in trouble, I will pass out. I’m trying to locate doctors you really knows about COPD, i find out more about COPD,when I read what you people write and I want to thank every body, for writing about what going on with them and how they go about getting the right help. Pooche115

  • Cynthiajk
    5 days ago

    Good morning Pooche, As a 3 year survivor of COPD I’m not an expert but I have learned a thing or three. Most importantly, you have to be pro-active! Thru research and conversations at PulmoRehab I learned of the benefits of a nebulizer (like a miracle for me and Medicare pays for it, to). I had used inhalers for years for asthma and then COPD but the nebbie gives me results I never had before. I do also use 02 and maintenance meds and have good days and bad, but keep on going — you can do it and you will feel better! Exercise as tho your life depends on it, because it does! Blessings.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    6 days ago

    Hi Pooche, and thanks so much for joining in the conversation here. I’m so sorry to hear this is the first you’ve become aware of pulmonary rehabilitation programs. So many of our community members have shared with us the value of the programs they have been enrolled in. I thought this article would provide you with some additional insight as it presents an overview for the reader: https://copd.net/living-with-copd/pulmonary-rehab/. I do hope you find it to be informative and helpful. I think it’s a good idea for you to inquire about rehab during your next visit with your doctor, as you mentioned.
    We appreciate your kind words about the information we provide on our website here. Please know you are always welcome here!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • mamadrearest
    1 week ago

    I love this makes me feel more better ! Thank you so much Margaret Black

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 days ago

    Hi mamadrearest and thanks for letting us know this article made you feel so much better. We appreciate you taking the time to tell us. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

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