Exercise is vital for good health and is an integral part of well-being. However, when individuals have health issues, exercise can be difficult. Physical activity is even more important for those suffering from long-term illnesses, both to help in recuperation and prevent further deterioration. Oxygen therapy offers a way to make exercise less difficult for patients with chronic pulmonary diseases.
Decreased Exercise Capacity
Exercise isn’t always particularly appealing, even for those in the best of health. When a person has difficulty breathing, the idea of exercise can be downright daunting. Even if a person is determined to get the activity they need, the physical limitations from pulmonary illness may make this impossible. Breathlessness and easy fatigability prevent many pulmonary patients from getting the amount or intensity of exercise they require.
The Necessity of Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise, known as “cardio” - an activity that increases the heart rate - is particularly valuable. These forms of exercise, such as walking, running, cycling, etc., not only burn calories, but also strengthen the heart and lungs. In contrast, exercises like weight-lifting are anaerobic. While these workouts build muscle, they aren’t cardio and thus don’t provide many advantages to the cardiopulmonary system.
As implied by the name, aerobic exercise required increased amounts of oxygen. As heart rate increases, more oxygen is being used by the body, and the respiration rate accelerates to replace this oxygen. Shortness of breath quickly follows, and this is exacerbated in people with compromised or inefficient lungs.
Benefits of Oxygen Therapy during Exercise
When a patient is on oxygen therapy, each lungful of air inhaled is richer in oxygen than it would be without supplemental oxygen. This allows more oxygen to saturate the bloodstream with less work of breathing. A high oxygen saturation percentage is vital to reducing fatigue and permitting continuous exercise. In fact, use of supplemental oxygen has been clinically shown to increase the exercise capacity and exercise tolerance and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
It’s important to note that a person doesn’t have to be suffering from hypoxia - low amounts of oxygen in the blood - at rest to benefit from supplemental oxygen during exercise. Pulmonary patients with normal oxygenation levels also experience better exercise tolerance while using oxygen therapy.
Warmth and Humidity
Oxygen therapy provides another perk for those who choose to exercise outdoors, particularly during the winter and autumn months. The cold, dry air can aggravate pulmonary problems and even cause additional damage to the lungs. However, oxygen units often have the option to produce warmed and/or humidified the air, which is soothing to the lungs, particularly during a work-out.
Oxygen Therapy Prevents Further Problems
The body is a machine that must be used regularly to stay in good condition. Much as a car won’t start if it’s been left untouched for months, the human body has to be “taken out for a spin” once in a while. The good news is that oxygen therapy provides much-needed exercise capacity for pulmonary patients. Exercise will decrease in difficulty as the heart, lungs, and respiratory muscles gain greater strength creating a cycle of regular exercise and good health.