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The Importance of Exercise for the COPD Patient


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Why should you exercise?  Exercise and staying active are an important part of rehabilitation for chronic lung disease. You may believe that people with chronic lung disease are too short of breath to exercise. This is a myth. The truth is that regular exercise can help you feel less short of breath. Regular exercise improves your heart and muscles. It can help you feel good about yourself.

Exercise increases:

  • Energy level

  • Muscle strength and endurance

  • Cardiopulmonary (heart-lung) endurance

  • Ability to fight infection

  • Relaxation

  • Restful sleep

  • Bone density

Exercise decreases:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Risk factors of heart disease

  • Blood pressure

  • Side effects of medicine (steroids)

  • Depression

  • Blood sugar levels

How to start an exercise program - First, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss exercise. You and your doctor can develop an exercise program that is right for you. Your doctor may suggest you attend a pulmonary rehabilitation program. If he does not, you should ask him about joining one. 

A pulmonary rehabilitation program helps to restore your health and quality of life through education, proper nutrition and exercise. The program should include flexibility (stretching), muscle strength, muscle endurance and endurance for sustained activity.

Flexibility or stretching help prepare you for the exercise session by warming the muscles. Strengthening and endurance exercises help improve and maintain your strength so can perform daily tasks. Endurance exercises increase your ability to sustain work, home and recreational activities.

Your doctor or pulmonary therapist will monitor your progress.

What kind of exercise can you do? Choose an exercise you enjoy and that you can do easily in your environment. You may want to join a health spa, gym or fitness center. They may have classes at the senior center. You may live near a park where you can walk along trails or enjoy bike riding. You may prefer to exercise at home and have a home gym of sorts. In addition to doing what you enjoy, look at what you need to be able to do. Set realistic goals. 

This information provided in part by the National Jewish Medical and Research Center. 

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Last modified: March 18, 2011

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