If you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with chronic lung disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you might be wondering what the best way to stay healthy is. After all, it can be scary to find out that you have a condition that will never go away. Even worse is finding out how it impacts what you can and cannot do. So while health might not have been the first thing on your mind before your diagnosis, it almost certainly will be after.
It’s not news that exercise can maintain, and even help improve, your health! Exercise holds a number of benefits for those with COPD, too. This includes improving how well the body uses oxygen, reducing the intensity of COPD symptoms, strengthening the cardiovascular system, and increasing endurance.
Before you start on your new health journey, though, you might be wondering if there are any exercises you should avoid. While you should speak to your doctor about the details, here’s a quick guide to chronic lung disease and the exercises that you can do.
What is chronic lung disease or COPD?
According to the COPD Foundation, COPD is not one particular condition. In fact, it’s an umbrella term for a number of chronic lung conditions that deal with some form of progressive lung disease. These conditions include the following:
Emphysema — Usually caused by cigarette smoking, emphysema is a COPD condition that involves damage to the air sacs (or alveoli) in the lungs. Because of this damage, a person with emphysema has a difficult time catching their breath. They may even end up with a chronic cough and other symptoms that worsen over time.
Chronic bronchitis — Another condition commonly caused by cigarette smoking, chronic bronchitis occurs when a person’s airways become inflamed. The inflamed airways produce more mucus, which leads to breathing difficulties like shortness of breath and wheezing.
Asthma — Unlike either emphysema or chronic bronchitis, there’s no well-known cause for asthma. It’s a chronic disease where the inner walls of a person’s airways become sore and swollen, making them more sensitive to outside influences. As a result, the airways, as well as the rest of the lungs, will react strongly to irritants like allergies and cold air. And when airways react strongly, they tend to narrow, giving the lungs less oxygen. Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma.
No matter what form of COPD you have, you’ve probably noticed that you’ve had difficulty breathing at some point, or even throughout, each day. Unfortunately, this issue can make it feel impossible for you to engage in any sort of strenuous physical activity.
COPD and Exercise — Staying Active with COPD
Since any form of COPD will affect your breathing, you might be less keen to move around. After all, you don’t want to feel dizzy or more tired than usual. And feeling miserable is not a state of mind most want to exercise in.
But exercise and staying active in general is actually pretty beneficial when you have COPD. So, is there a way you can make exercise feel less like a strenuous chore? In short, yes. The trick is to look for exercises that suit you and your condition best.
A low-impact exercise, walking is an activity that’s easy on your joints and breathing ability. Walking on a daily basis can help you move around and stay active without triggering your condition because you can do this at your own pace and routine. What’s more, you can probably fit this activity in during your other daily tasks!
Cleveland Clinic suggests that you start with a short walk just to see how far you can go before breathing becomes difficult. This will give you an idea of what your current limitations are.
Once you know your limits, set realistic goals that will allow you to extend them bit by bit. For example, you may want to try to walk 10 feet further each day while taking breaks whenever you feel short of breath. This will help you strengthen your body without stressing it out.
To help you with your walking limits, consider doing calf raises. These will strengthen your legs and lessen stress that walking or running might give you.
You can do calf raises by getting behind a chair, holding onto it for balance, and standing on the balls of your feet for a short period of time. Try to do this 10–15 times, but at your own pace.
Arm Curls with Light Weights
A great way to strengthen the muscles responsible for helping you breathe is by using light weights. Arm curls with light weights can help keep your body active without necessarily breathing hard.
Certain yoga poses can help you open up your body and work your muscles without being too stressful. Whether you’re new to yoga or you’ve done it for years, the best way to apply yoga poses is under the careful instruction and eye of a yoga studio instructor. Some yoga poses look deceptively easy, and it’s not difficult to accidentally overdo it without an instructor. So look out for an instructor at local yoga studios in or near your neighborhood.
Other Ways to Manage COPD
Now that you’ve gotten a fitness routine planned out to help you stay healthy, what else can you do to stay healthy? Well, alongside your exercising, you should keep in mind the two following areas.
Practising some routine breathing exercises for COPD can help you tolerate exercise more often. It will give you a better idea on how you can exert yourself less during exercise and in turn, help you feel more energetic.
Here are some exercises that you can try:
Pursed lip breathing— Perfect at helping you handle strenuous activity, pursed lip breathing promotes relaxation while reducing any shortness of breath. To practise it, simply take a deep breath through your nose. Then, purse your lips as if you were going to blow out candles and slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds.
Coordinated breathing — This breathing exercise will help you avoid holding your breath at inopportune moments during exercise. Here’s how to do it: before starting your exercise, inhale through your nose. Then, purse your lips and exhale during the most difficult part of your exercise.
Deep breathing — If you tend to feel like air is getting trapped in your lungs, deep breathing can help shake it loose. First, pick a position where you sit or stand with your elbows placed slightly back. Then, inhale deeply through your nose. Hold that breathe for five seconds, and then exhale it slowly through your nose until you feel that all the air has been released.
Huff coughing — While unpleasant to think about, it is important that you find a way to quickly and easily remove any mucus buildup your COPD causes. One way you can do this is through the huff coughing exercise. Get seated comfortably and inhale deeply through your mouth. Then, use your stomach muscles to blow the air back out of your mouth in three even breaths.
Diaphragmatic breathing — Because having COPD generally means that you’ll have weaker diaphragm muscles, you’ll want to build them up, as they can ease your breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing can help. It is recommended you first try this technique with a health-care professional, but this is how it works:
You can start the exercise while sitting or lying down with relaxed shoulders. From there, put one hand on your chest and another on your stomach. Then, inhale through your nose, letting your stomach move outward. Once done, purse your lips and exhale slowly through your mouth while pressing lightly on your stomach. Repeat this routine as much as you can.
Alongside both your fitness and breathing exercises, medications like generic ADVAIR DISKUS® can help you strengthen your control over your health and COPD. So talk to your doctor to see what they recommend.
You might find this last suggestion daunting. And that’s completely understandable! The United States is known for high prescription prices, often requiring its citizens to pay three times more for prescriptions that can be found cheaper outside the country.
There are ways to make your prescription more affordable, though. Consider using an online international and Canadian pharmacy referral service. You’ll be able to connect to licensed pharmacies from outside of the States where prescription prices will be less costly.
Still feel a bit overwhelmed? While it may feel like you’re going through more hurdles than you’d like, just remember that you’re worth it. COPD can be a bit of a challenge to work around at first, but once you’ve gotten your health plan all mapped out, you’ll be able to live happily and healthfully like anyone else.
DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.