Slow exercise is better than no exercise for those with COPD

Trying to catch your breath after a challenging cardio workout is one thing. But trying to breath while walking just a short distance is a problem faced every day by people with COPD. Short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD is a disease that causes difficulty breathing, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Most often the result of cigarette smoking, COPD doesn’t get better, but rather worsens slowly over time.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which are associated with the disease, lead to disability and difficulty performing everyday tasks like housework, walking, and even cooking. But, the less moving you do, the quicker you become disabled. Understandably, someone with COPD will have a hard time exercising, but even a little exercise is known to improve symptoms, increase energy and endurance, and help the body more effectively use oxygen.

After your doctor gives you the okay, try adding one of these workouts into your daily routine.

1. Walking

No matter how slow you go, walking is a great exercise for those with COPD. No equipment is needed except a supportive pair of shoes, and walking can be done just about anywhere. Whether you do it around the block, at the mall, or on a treadmill, walk as far and as fast as your lungs will allow. Even a minute here and a minute there can do you good. Each day plan to walk a little further or a little longer. Walk with a friend to make your workout more enjoyable.

2. Stationary Biking

At the gym or in your home, get a low-impact workout on a stationary bicycle. Like walking, it’s simple to adjust the speed and duration of your workout. When shortness of breath sets in, take a break and start again when you feel stronger. Cycling or spin classes are another great option if you enjoy a stationary bicycle workout, but be sure to go at your own pace, even if the instructor is telling you to do otherwise.

3. Tai Chi

The graceful, flowing movements of tai chi are another form of exercise that’s safe and recommended for people with COPD. The gentle movements are performed slowly but continually and with deep breathing, making tai chi a great way to relieve stress and improve fitness, regardless of your skill or ability. If this sounds up your alley, join a tai chi class or watch a video.

4. Weights & Bodyweights

Simple weight-bearing exercises can be done while sitting, standing, or lying on the floor using your own bodyweight for resistance. While sitting on the couch watching television, hold a small dumbbell or canned good in each hand and do a few reps of bicep curls on each arm. Hold the weights by your side with your palms facing forward, take a breath in, and then lift the weight up toward your chest while bending your elbows. Exhale and lower the weights.

Now try a few arm raises while holding the weights. Lift your arms straight in front of you until they reach shoulder height. Inhale and lower back down.

While standing, you can strengthen your calf muscles with calf raises. Hold onto something stable and lift up on your toes. Hold and then lower back to the ground. If you’re strong enough, try lifting your body on one foot at a time.

Bodyweight exercises you can do on the floor include sit-ups, push-ups, leg raises, or planks depending on your strength. All of them help you build muscle and lung strength.