Living with COPD: Advice for Staying Active

If you have a chronic lung disease like COPD, exercise might be the last thing on your mind, but not being active will make you feel worse, and cause your overall condition to worsen.

Why is Exercise So Important?

Randolph Lipchik, MD, a pulmonologist at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, says, “Being able to manage everyday activities tends to improve a patient’s outlook. It improves a person’s mood, to have that shortness of breath a little more under control. Having a better sense of well-being makes staying active help COPD.”

It's a fact that sitting still for too long will cause your muscles to weaken, making it harder for the body to function in every aspect. Your blood vessels weaken, and blood isn't being pumped to all the different parts of your body to deliver more oxygen. Exercise is excellent not only for your muscles but the two most important organs – your brain and your heart.

Before you start any exercise routine, you should first consult with your doctor. He or she may want to monitor you or give you advice on the best exercises for you. They might tell you that you will need to change the dosage setting on your oxygen therapy while you are working out. Never change the dosage setting unless your doctor tells you to.

You might be lacking energy, but not doing anything leads to a vicious cycle of having even less energy, even for the most simple tasks. Once you get the blood and oxygen pumping a little more, you will begin to feel a difference in your energy levels.

The Best Exercises for People with COPD

Low-impact exercises such as walking and bicycling are great because they offer cardiovascular benefits, and you can go as fast or as slow as you want and still reap the benefits.

Swimming is also a great exercise because you can go as fast or slow as you want, and the water cushions your muscles and joints. Swim in nice, heated indoor pool for a great exercise routine all year round.

Strength training will help keep your muscles healthy, which will help you in all everyday activities. Start with small weights, and a small number of repetitions. Don't strain yourself.

Keep an eye on your blood oxygen level with a handheld oximeter. Check it before and after your exercise. If it's low before you exercise, contact your doctor and don't start exercising. If it's low afterward, contact your doctor and don't exercise until you've been seen, and your doctor gives you the okay.

Your doctor might tell you to use an inhaler before working out. If you have a rescue inhaler, keep it close to you while you exercise, in case you need it.

Practice pursed lip breathing while you exercise. Breathe in through your nose and out through pursed lips. This will help strengthen your airways by causing resistance. You should breathe out twice as long as you breathe in, to ensure that all of the carbon dioxides in your lungs has been expelled.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

Page last updated: October 5, 2018


About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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