How to Exercise When You Have COPD

How should a COPD patient start a walking regimen?
Start small and don’t get discouraged. Even if you walk down the driveway and back the first day, that’s an accomplishment – and a start.

Every day add just one or two more steps – more if possible.

What should patients with COPD work up to?
The goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day and wear a pedometer – even around the house or to the store – to track your progress. Keep a walking journal so you can quickly see your progress.

Other than walking, what forms of exercise can patients with COPD do?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends forms of exercise that increase total body oxygen demands and require usage of the large muscle groups like legs, arms and mid-section.

Besides walking, some great forms of aerobic activity are riding a stationary bike or swimming. Stair stepping or rowing machines are alternatives, but only if they don’t cause excessive shortness of breath.

Besides improving respiratory function, what are other benefits to exercising if you’re a COPD patient?
Patients with COPD lose upper body strength because they think they can’t exercise. They also lose muscle because their diaphragm, which is a muscle, weakens as a result of not being able to breathe deeply. The diaphragm doesn’t get a good workout.

Resistance training for the upper body helps strengthen the diaphragm as well as muscles in the arms, back and shoulders.


Here is a workout that can tone and help manage symptoms.

Seated or standing dumbbell curls

Equipment needed: 1-, 2- or 5-pound weights

Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Duration: 1 set of 8-15 repetitions (you can start at 8 and build up to 15).

How to do it:
1. Using a 1-, 2- or 5-pound weight, sit or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Keep your back straight and let the dumbbells dangle at your sides with palms facing inward.

3. With your arms straight, slowly raise the dumbbells until they are parallel to the floor. Repeat the exercise 8 times.

Tips: Your arm should be perpendicular to your torso.





Push-ups on a wall

Equipment needed: none

Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Duration: 1 set, 8-15 repetitions. (You can start at 8 and build up to 15.)

How to do it:
1. Stand facing a wall approximately 2 feet away.

Keep your feet together, place your hands flat on the wall slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be straight out in front of you.

2. Lean in toward the wall (tucking your elbows in) until your nose is almost touching the wall and hold this position for 5 seconds.

3. Return to standing position and repeat.





Leg Lifts

Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Duration: 1 set, 8-15 repetitions. (Start at 8 and build up to 15.)

How to do it:
1. Lie on the floor with toes pointed up, arms at sides and palms open.

2. Bend your right leg and put your foot flat
on the floor.

3. Slowly raise your left leg as high as you can, hold it in the air for 5 seconds and then return it to the ground.

4. Repeat raising the left leg 8-15 times before switching to the other leg.




How much do you know about COPD? Take the quiz.



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