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Hands holding up fitness and exercise items for COPD

Getting Fit with Pulmonary Rehabilitation

There can be nothing more daunting than being out of breath, while at the same time being encouraged to keep that body movingThere have been times when I could have easily thrown in the towel and quit what I was doing. But I am a stubborn old man so block all thoughts of quitting out of my mind, and always keep going while remembering, being breathless is not dangerous, providing our oxygen saturation levels are under control. And believe me, I am not superman. If I can do it, so can you.

Like many others I have lost count of the number of times of feeling very lazy – wanting to just sit and slouch, before giving myself an order to move.

Fact – the human body is not made to sit and do nothing

and we will all deteriorate if we don’t move. Even the fittest among us.  It is far more dangerous for us with COPD to do nothing.

My reward for moving is to feel more energetic, alert, and much less tired. The truth is if we don’t move ourselves, and lead a sedentary life, we will decline at a much more rapid pace than otherwise. The saying ‘Use it or lose it’ applies to lung health too.

My belief is everyone with COPD from moderate up should enter into a Pulmonary Rehabilitation course. The aim of Pulmonary Rehabilitation is to encourage us to be fitter, educate us about our illness while teaching us self management skills with the aim of improving our quality of life.

At the end of rehab your ability to cope with your illness, and understanding of it, will be much stronger. It is there you will learn self management skills, the knowledge of how your respiratory system works, and what you need to do to improve your lung health. You will also be shown and do exercises safely. All of which you will be able to do at home. Demonstrations on breathing control helps to offer you a better quality of life, which is part of pulmonary rehab too.

Exercise improves muscle strength.

Which in turn leads your body to use the oxygen you breathe more efficiently. Your general fitness will improve, helping you to cope better with COPD. As an additional bonus you will feel stronger, and fitter, and be able to do more. We all want to feel better. But feeling better does come at a price. We have to work at getting fit harder than we otherwise would if we were not ill, a bit like an athlete, as for us being lung challenged everything is harder. But as I have found. The rewards are immense when it comes to the feel good factor.

It is very important to stay active after you finish a Pulmonary rehab course. You will have a whole lot of exercises that have been taught you on the course. But there are other ways to exercise outside you might like to try. I live in a mountainous area. When I go outside my home I have a seven pound oxygen cylinder strapped to my back if not in my car, or on my scooter. A cannula supplies 6 litres of pulse oxygen to my lungs when on my feet and moving. I sometimes smile when having a cylinder on my back, as I imagine myself as some kind of deep sea diver, or maybe an alien that needs air for a strange world.

Until I write again, breathe easy.

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.


  • LeoBasham
    3 months ago

    Glad I found this website! I’m looking forward to learning much here. For one thing:

    I am confused at times as to when I must use Oxygen. A few months ago I was prescribed 2 liters of Oxygen 24/7 when I was released from Hospital for a one-week battle with Pneumonia. Nowadays I often choose not to use Oxygen as long as my %Sp maintains in the lower 90s–when in an air- conditioned environment. I carry and use a Pulse Oximeter often. And, of course, I carry my bottle when out-of-doors.

    But I wonder . . . am I harming my system when I permit that level to drop to 85% or so for a brief period? I can easily bring the level back to 90 or above with pursed-lip breathing; then curtail my physical activity until my system is back to “normal”

    I feel truly blessed that I do not need the Oxygen continuously; and hope that I am not doing further damage to my old, “formerly nicotine-stained lungs.”

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, LeoBasham – we’re glad you found our community as well! You’ve certainly come to the right place as we have a wealth of information – all related to COPD.
    You may be aware we cannot provide medical advice or diagnostics over the internet (for your own safety), but your expressed concerns certainly warrant a reply.

    It is always best for you to direct questions about the use of oxygen (in your particular case), to your prescribing physician. In the most general of terms, it’s best for one’s system to maintain oxygen saturation levels above 90%. For most patients. an 85% saturation level would be considered low. This, of course, can vary from patient to patient.

    Since COPD affects everyone differently, you may want to have this discussion, in more detail, with your doctor.

    Please do check back and let us know how you’re doing. You are always welcome here!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • jcgivan
    3 years ago

    I get more and better exercise walking my dog 1-1½ hours a day. My small town pulm rehab puts me on an exercise machine then disappears until it’s time to check my blood pressure and O2 saturation. No teaching or guidance. 🙁

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