Regular exercise is vital to maintaining health in COPD patients. If your lungs are affected by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, you might have noticed that shortness of breath leads to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, which in turn leads to worse shortness of breath upon exertion. This vicious cycle is sometimes referred to as the “spiral of deconditioning”. The overall decline in fitness, strength, cardiovascular function and muscle mass associated with deconditioning can lead COPD patients into fatigue, social isolation and depression.
It is important to maintain regular exercise and beat the spiral before falling into it. The benefits of regular exercise cannot be emphasised enough: reduced shortness of breath, decreased exercise anxiety, reduced fatigue and a greater quality of life will mean that you can get on with your daily living activities without the stress of constant exertion.
Regular exercise can also improve heart and muscle strength, control weight gain, improve bone density, clear sputum from the lungs and, best of all, make you feel happy and in control.
We recommend the following exercises and activities to help combat the spiral of deconditioning, so you can breathe easy. Be sure to discuss an exercise plan with your doctor or respiratory specialist before beginning any fitness activities.
Warming up and cooling down
Warming up and cooling down before a workout helps your body to adjust to the increase in heart rate, body temperature and breathing. Getting started in this way will help you avoid injury.
These warm up and cool down exercises are formulated to strengthen the muscles in the chest and improve breathing, as well as prepare you for your workout. We suggest choosing a few to focus on each exercise session.
- Stretch your arms out to your sides and, keeping them straight, move them in large circles for 6 – 8 circles in each direction. If you find it difficult to keep your arms straight, place your hands on your shoulders and make circles with your elbows instead.
- Extend your arms straight out to the sides, and pull your shoulder blades together so that your arms move as far back as possible without causing pain, then swing your arms forward so that each hand touches the opposite shoulder. Keep swinging your arms, alternating which arm goes over the top, for 10 or so swings. While doing this exercise, inhale as your arms move backwards and exhale as they move forwards.
- With your arms resting comfortably at your sides, pull your shoulders up towards your ears then lower them without hunching your back. Repeat this exercise 10 or so times (it can be done from a seated position).
- Raise your arms so that your elbows are at right angles, with your forearms pointing to your sides and your hands pointing towards the sky. From this position, bring your elbows together in front of you while exhaling. While inhaling bring them back to the sides. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times
- Stand with your arms by your sides and your palms facing outward. Keeping the arms straight, raise them above your head while inhaling. Then turn your palms outward and lower your arms to your sides while exhaling. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times.
- Turn your head slowly from side to side, stretching as far to each side as possible without causing pain. Inhale as you turn to the side and exhale as you bring your gaze back to the centre. Try to keep your head straight, avoiding tilting. Turn to each side 5 times for the best stretch.
- Stand up straight, balancing with an arm on a chair if necessary, and slowly lift your knees one at a time as high as you can, then slowly lower each knee back to a standing position. Repeat 6 – 8 times for each leg in an alternating pattern.
- Sit down on a chair with a backrest and while sitting comfortably with your back against the backrest slowly extend each leg one at a time. Repeat up to 10 times for each leg.
Cardiovascular and aerobic exercise
The bulk of your exercise program should consist of aerobic exercises that increase your heart rate. These sorts of exercises will strengthen your muscles, heart and lungs so that everyday activities become less difficult. The amount of time you spend at an increased RPM will depend on your level of ability, so make sure you discuss this with your doctor before beginning a program of exercise.
Some exercises you can discuss with your doctor include:
- Tai Chi
- Lifting light weights
- Aqua aerobics
There are many activities that you can partake in while you manage your COPD. The important thing is to keep up a positive attitude and enjoy an active lifestyle. To make sure you avoid the spiral of deconditioning, talk to your doctor today about formulating a fitness plan that works for you. In the meantime, take a look at our range of class-leading Inogen oxygen concentrators to keep you on track to healthy lungs.