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If You Have COPD, Get Moving

from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

If chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) leaves you feeling tired and breathless, exercising may be the last thing you want to do. But it's near the top of the list of things you should do to alleviate your symptoms. While exercise does not directly improve lung function, by conditioning your muscles it helps build your endurance level, which, in turn, improves how well your body uses oxygen. That means you won't have to use as much energy to breathe, and you'll be able to do more before you start feeling tired.

Most people with COPD who don't have a pulmonary rehab program nearby or who lack insurance coverage for such a program can and should exercise on their own.

In fact, a recent study from Annals of Internal Medicine of 252 people with moderate to severe COPD -- half of whom underwent outpatient rehab and half of whom had home-based rehab -- found that both groups reported having less trouble breathing when performing daily activities after participating in an eight-week program.

For this study, participants performed various strength-training and aerobic exercise three times a week for eight weeks. But regular walking also can be a component of a home-based exercise program.

If you're not used to exercise, begin walking slowly at a very comfortable pace for a short period (try starting with five to 10 minutes daily) three to five days a week. Do not increase your walking time until you can walk the entire time without stopping to rest. When you can walk without stopping, increase your walking time by one to two minutes each week. Make your goal walking 30 minutes without stopping -- many people with severe lung disease are able to reach this goal over time. Try not to let bad weather stop you -- you can always walk around your local mall if you can't exercise outdoors.

Tips for Exercising With COPD

  • Stop your exercise if you feel dizzy or weak, have palpitations, become short of breath or experience pain.
  • Don't exercise outside on high-ozone days or on days that are too cold, hot, or humid. Extreme temperatures can make breathing difficult.
  • If your medications change, ask your doctor whether the adjustment will affect your ability to exercise.
  • If your exercise regimen has been interrupted for a few days, reduce your activity level when you resume and then build up to your regular schedule.

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer


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