If you have been diagnosed with COPD, quitting smoking, being physically active and avoiding a sedentary life are the most important ingredients in your treatment, alongside taking your prescribed medication.
Physical activity increases life expectancy and reduces both the risk of deterioration in your condition and your need for hospitalisation. It helps to reduce breathlessness and relieves anxiety and depression.
Regular physical activity is recommended for all COPD patients, regardless of how far your condition has progressed. By being active at a level you are capable of – for example moving around at home, going out in the garden, walking, participating in exercise groups - you will feel better and have more energy over time.
Exercise can improve:
- muscle strength
- balance (and so reduces the risk of falls)
- mood (and so reduces the risk of depression)
- feelings of shortness of breath
- functional ability and quality of life
- helps to maintain bone mass (strength)
What types of exercise?
- aerobic exercise (like walking) and strength training for arms and legs are both important
- your home exercise programme will contain both types of exercise
- other activities that get you out of breath (like gardening) can count
How much exercise?
- you should aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least 3 days each week
- you can build up to this level gradually
- you don’t have to do 30 minutes all in one go – for example, two 15 minute walks are as good
How hard should I work?
- it is ok to feel out of breath when exercising
- aim to be moderately out of breath (3-4 on the breathlessness scale)
- if you feel only slightly out of breath you can work a bit harder
- if you feel severely out of breath, slow down
Stop exercising if you begin to feel unwell or experience any chest pain, dizziness, faintness, or sudden more severe shortness of breath.
- wear comfortable clothing and footwear with low heels
- drink enough fluid (more on hot days)
- always warm up and cool down
- avoid exercising in extremes of weather (eg very hot or very cold)
- do not exercise after drinking alcohol
- wait at least one hour after eating a meal before you exercise
Do you think you need an individual training programme? Or an adjustment of oxygen dose for exercise? Or would portable oxygen equipment make life easier for you?
Talk to your prescribing physician or oxygen nurse and they will help you.