Those living with COPD understand better than anyone the feeling of breathlessness. While exercising while living with COPD might sound conflicting, it’s actually one of the better things you can do to help you feel better.
Everyday tasks, like walking to the mailbox or climbing a flight of stairs, can leave you feeling out of breath. Exercising can change this feeling and get weak muscles the oxygen they need. When your body is stronger, these everyday activities and tasks become much easier.
Talk to Your Doctor First
If you have COPD or another lung disorder, it is important that you talk to your doctor before you start any sort of exercise program or regimen. Depending on your specific case, your doc might want to conduct an exercise tolerance test on a treadmill or stationary bike to determine how much exercise your body can safely handle. Your oxygen levels and heart function will be monitored and measured during this test. If cleared, your doctor will give you a “prescription” to exercise. This will include all the information you need to know about how hard you can push yourself, how often you can work out, and for how long. If you have a more severe case of COPD, your doc may refer you to a pulmonary rehabilitation program. This program includes breathing training, exercising training, education, and counseling if necessary.
It is important to follow these recommendations very closely. It is also important that you do not adjust your oxygen without discussing it with your doctor first.
Benefits of Exercising with COPD
While exercising cannot reverse COPD or other lung diseases, it can help you feel better and change the way you function and breathe on a daily basis. It also can recondition your lungs and improve your quality of life overall. You may feel extremely tired, but exercising will actually give you more energy, thus making you feel less tired.
Beginning an Exercise Program
Once you’ve got the go-ahead from your doctor, it’s time to start your exercise program. This first step might be the hardest part because you are feeling too tired, too sick, or too busy. Whatever the excuse is, try to remember how exercising will actually help you feel better! Think of it as an investment.
When deciding how you’d like to exercise, think about what you enjoy doing. Do you enjoy being out in nature? A group class? Solo exercises? You are more likely to stick to a regimen or program if it’s something you enjoy. If biking is something you love, do that and skip out on the step class. You like walking outdoors, but don’t want to do it alone? Find a walking group or buddy.
Make sure you start out slowly. You’ll likely feel a bit short of breath. This is okay as long as you’re not feeling chest pain, completely out of oxygen to where you can’t breathe, or feeling nauseated. Work your way up to a more difficult workout routine. If running a 5K is your goal, start small with short daily walks. Work your way up to a speed walk, then eventually a light jog. No need to push yourself over the edge.
To read part 2 of this series click here!