Having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) brings a sudden and painful change to your life. When you are diagnosed as having this disability, which essentially means you will always experience difficulty breathing, the implications there are great. For one thing, you will find that there are many activities that you can no longer do as freely as before. These include strenuous activities such as sports and exercise.
However, while there will be limitations, having COPD doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, exercise at all. While exercising when dealing with COPD may not be a simple matter, with ample preparation and dedication, exercise can actually help you better manage your disease.
COPD & Exercise
Because one of the symptoms of COPD is constant shortness of breath, you might think that exercise would only worsen your condition. However, not only is this a misconception but there are actually quite a number of exercise benefits for people with COPD, including:
· Strengthens Your Respiratory Muscles. While your COPD can’t be reversed by exercise, it can help strengthen your respiratory system, slow down lung degradation, and improve oxygen circulation.
· Helps with Weight Management. Exercise can help you control your weight and blood pressure levels. Excessive fat can lead to complications in your condition so it’s always a good idea to workout.
· Improves Your Mood. Physical activity can help you relax and sleep better, thus improving your mental and emotional well-being.
· Increases Your Ability to Do Daily Activities. Many simple activities, such as running errands and cooking, can be bothersome for a person with COPD. Exercise can improve your ability to do these daily activities easily and more often.
Preparing for Exercise
Now, before you start doing anything strenuous, there are a few preparatory steps you should take to ensure your safety.
Consult a Physician. The first thing you should always do is consult your doctor. Your physician should be able to answer all your questions about your exercise routine, taking medications, and what to do in emergency situations. He can also refer you to a specialized healthcare provider who can develop a unique exercise routine for you that fits your limitations and goals.
Consult with your doctor regularly as you start doing exercises more often. He should be able to tell you if there are any complications, and recommend a pulmonary rehabilitation program if you need one.
Get the Right Oxygen Therapy Equipment. Your physician can also recommend the right oxygen therapy equipment for you according to the physical activities that you currently want to do. However, you might also want to give future activities that you plan on doing some consideration, too.
Adapt a Positive Outlook. Be positive about your condition and explore what other activities you might want to do in the future that could require oxygen therapy equipment. Once you get a bit better, you might want to travel or take some lessons in something new - -and possibly more strenuous -- for instance. Planning ahead can save you a pretty penny on equipment costs.
Exercise, Slow and Sure
You should only begin an exercise session with these things in mind.
· Create the Proper Exercise Conditions. You should avoid exercising in extremely hot, cold, or humid conditions as these factors could affect your breathing. Make sure to prepare the proper equipment and clothing as well. Wearing loose-fitting clothes makes it easier to breathe, and having a portable oxygen concentrator during outdoor exercises is always a good idea.
· Practice the Proper Breathing Methods. There are specific COPD breathing exercises that you should start practicing. When combined with exercise, these breathing methods will help you mitigate the impact of shortness of breath to your workout. The two common breathing exercises are 1) Pursed Lip Breathing and 2) Diaphragmatic Breathing. When done correctly, they help remove trapped air and keep your airways open, thus allowing for a smooth exercise session.
· Set a Goal. Next, before you start exercising, you should have a goal. Whether it’s losing weight, building endurance, or increasing flexibility, your goal changes your exercise routine greatly. Setting a goal means you can also track your progress, so you can keep yourself motivated as you get closer to what you want to achieve.
· Understand the Types of Exercise That You Can Do. For the most part, you should only do low-impact exercise routines. These include stretching, aerobics, and receptive weight lifting. Yoga is a great stretching routine that you can do because classes are usually set up in a way that you can choose your own pace. Consistently doing these exercises can help increase the range of activities you can do. However, it’s important to remember not to push yourself too hard.
· Start Slow & Create a Habit. Get professional help in developing low-impact exercise routines that you can do slowly and progressively. Always begin with a warm-up routine, end with cool down exercises, and remember to avoid heavy weights. Not doing so can aggravate your shortness of breath. Find ways to keep yourself motivated by playing music or challenging yourself.
· Find a Group. If you can join a group that has similar limitations as you, then it will keep you motivated in continuing the exercise habit. You might not have similar diseases, but there are many people who can only do low-impact exercises due to their conditions. So, you and your group can do exercises at a steady pace where you can converse with each other. Make sure you know each other’s details so you can act in emergency situations as necessary.
· Be Attentive of Your Body’s Condition. Lastly, it’s very important to be mindful about how your body is doing while exercising. Extreme shortness of breath, nausea, difficulty in thinking, talking, and walking, as well as a rapid or irregular heart rate are all signs that you should stop immediately. Sit down with your feet elevated until all such symptoms disappear. You should also be prepared to call for help as needed. Make sure to keep your doctor informed about these symptoms as well.
Don’t Let COPD Limit Your Life
Exercise can be the gateway that leads you to a fulfilled life even with COPD. If you can do it regularly and properly, activities such as working, adopting an outdoor hobby, and traveling with your family are once again open to you. With the proper oxygen therapy equipment and preparation, you can slowly, but certainly, start doing all those things that you miss doing again.
The author: M is a happily married Filipino mother to three wonderful little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and 4 months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutr ition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes, and the occasional singing cat video.