When you have a chronic lung disease, exercise might be the furthest thing from your mind. You are probably picturing someone running, doing push ups and taking the deep, concentrated breaths needed to bring in the oxygen needed to keep their body going. If you are using an oxygen concentrator for part of the day to get that needed amount of oxygen, you might think that working out is far beyond your reach.
There are many different ways to exercise, and the classic forms like running and doing push ups or sit ups are only a few of many. Tai chi is one form of exercise that is very unlike these traditional methods, and it has been found to help people with COPD, especially.
Tai chi originates from China and is thought to be over 700 years old. In a nutshell, it describes a series of specific, slow and deliberate movements, along with breathing and mental concentration. It's hard to know for sure what happened 700 years ago if it wasn't recorded (or if the original records were destroyed), but it's said that a man named Chang San Feng developed it so that monks could defend themselves against attacks. Even though tai chi is slow-paced, it's considered a form of martial arts.
Tai chi has been growing in popularity over the last 10 or so years, and there have been studies that report that tai chi is a great way of treating, coping with, and even preventing different chronic diseases. Talk to your doctor first to make sure this type of exercise is right for you. Despite tai chi being to known to be helpful for most people, it's always a good idea to consult with your doctor before you start any new exercise routine.
How it Helps You
If you don't have access to pulmonary therapy, which might be necessary for you, tai chi is a great alternative. The University of Sydney, Australia conducted a study of COPD patients who practiced tai chi, and compared their health results to COPD patients who did not. They noted how the people who practiced tai chi improved in all areas, including muscle strength and balance, as well as cognitive function and an improvement in memory. As with any other exercise, it drew in more oxygen to all the parts of the body.
As long as your doctor approves, you can even do tai chi while you are using a portable oxygen concentrator if you need constant oxygen, since the moves are so slow and non-jarring. You can wear it on your back with the use of a carry backpack that has been adjusted to fit snugly to your back, so that it stays in place.
How to Start
Look into basic or beginner tai chi classes in your area. If you can attend classes for a while to learn the basics, you have the option of continuing attending the classes or doing what you learned at home on a regular basis.