Introduction

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often makes it difficult to breathe, which in turn may limit how
active you are and how much you exercise. But it is important to remain active
and exercise when you have COPD. Activity and exercise can:

  • Build muscle strength and endurance. This will
    help you be more active-you will be able to do more activities for longer
    amounts of time.
  • Reduce shortness of breath.

Exercises for COPD can be done nearly anywhere. They are
often done as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.

Always
consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Heart problems,
such as
coronary artery disease (CAD) or
high blood pressure, are common in people who have COPD
and may limit exercise options. You may need medical supervision when you start
your program.

How do I exercise for COPD?

Exercises for COPD are
simple to do and take little time. They generally consist of aerobic exercises,
which increase oxygen flow to your muscles, and upper and lower body exercises,
which strengthen muscles.

Always consult with your doctor before
starting any exercise program. People with COPD may have heart problems, such
as
coronary artery disease (CAD) or
high blood pressure, that limit exercise options. You
may need medical supervision when you start your program.

If you
become breathless while doing any of the exercises, rest in a position with
your shoulders supported (such as in a chair) and wait until you can breathe
easily again.

Getting started

To get started with an exercise program:

  • Talk to your doctor. He or she may ask that you
    do specific exercises and will help you figure out not only how often and how
    long to do your exercises but also how to set your long-term exercise program
    goals. Although it may take weeks before you are able to reach your goals, how
    long it takes is not as important as doing the exercises
    consistently.
  • Start slowly and gradually. For each exercise, either
    time how long you can do it or count the number of times you can do it before
    you are mildly out of breath. Then rest and move on to the next exercise. Each
    week, increase the time you spend doing each exercise or how many times you do
    each one.
  • Pick activities that you enjoy.
  • Always have a
    warm-up and cool-down. This is a good time for
    stretches.
  • Pay attention to your
    breathing. Try to breathe slowly to save your breath. Breathe in through your
    nose, keeping your mouth closed. This warms and moisturizes the air you
    breathe. Breathe out through pursed lips.

Aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercises increase the
amount of oxygen that is delivered to your muscles, which allows them to work
longer. This helps you do more activities for longer periods of time.

Any exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended
period of time will improve your aerobic fitness. These exercises include
walking, using a treadmill, cycling or using a stationary bicycle, swimming,
and water aerobics.

Daily activities can also be aerobic: walking
to work or to run errands, sweeping (perhaps to fast-paced music), playing
actively with children, and walking your dog.

There is an easy
way to determine whether your heart rate is at the right level during aerobic
exercises:

  • If you can’t talk and exercise at the same
    time, you are exercising too hard.
  • If you can talk while you
    exercise, you are doing fine.
  • If you can sing while you exercise,
    you may not be exercising hard enough.

Talk to your doctor before starting aerobic exercise. He
or she will help you know how often and how long to exercise and how to set
your long-term exercise goals.

Lower body exercises

Knee extensions, leg lifts,
and step-ups develop lower body muscles and will help you move around more
easily for longer periods of time.

Talk to your doctor before
starting these exercises. He or she will help you know how often and how long
to exercise and how to set your long-term exercise goals.

  • Knee extensions. Sit in a chair with your feet slightly apart. Breathe
    out as you straighten your knee and raise your lower leg. Breathe in as you
    bend your knee and return your foot to the floor.
  • Leg lifts. Sit in a chair with your feet slightly
    apart. Breathe out as you lift one leg straight up so that the knee rises
    toward your shoulder. Breathe in as you return your foot to the
    floor.
  • Step-ups. Start on a flight of
    stairs with a banister to hold. Breathe out as you take one step up. Breathe in
    as you step back down.

Upper body exercises

Upper body exercises increase
strength in arm and shoulder muscles, which provide support to the rib cage and
can help improve breathing. They help in everyday tasks such as carrying
groceries and doing housework.

Talk to your doctor before
starting these exercises. He or she will help you know how often and how long
to exercise and how to set your long-term exercise goals.

  • Arm extensions. Start with your arms by your side. Breathe out as you
    raise one arm to shoulder height, keeping the arm straight and pointing to the
    side. Breathe in as you return the arm to your side.
  • Elbow circles. Sit or stand with your feet slightly
    apart. Place your hands on your shoulders with your elbows at shoulder level
    and pointing out. Slowly make a circle with your elbows. Breathe out as you
    start the circle and breathe in as you complete the circle.
  • Elbow breathing. Sit with your feet slightly apart.
    Lift your elbows to shoulder level and touch your fingertips in front of your
    chest. Breathe in as you pull your elbows back so that your fingertips
    separate. Breathe out as you return your elbows and fingertips to the original
    position.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD – Pulmonology

Current as ofMarch 25, 2017