9 exercising moves for people with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can learn to perform a variety of self-help measures that may help improve their symptoms and their ability to participate in everyday activities. Photo: hellodoctor.

Weak muscles need more oxygen, so you can become short of breath just by shopping or cooking. Exercise changes that. When your muscles are stronger, daily activities are easier.

You may also want to read: Self-help measures to alleviate obstructive disease

Walk: Just about everyone with COPD can exercise. Walking is a great choice, especially if you’re just getting started. Do it anywhere, outside, in a mall, on a treadmill. If it seems daunting, add 30 seconds or 10 yards each day. Even a slow pace will do you good. If you haven’t been active lately, check with your doctor before starting an exercise programme.

Bike: A stationary bike can work well for people with COPD. You can pedal away in the privacy of your home. In a gym or rehab setting, you can find supervision and meet people. Ask the instructor before jumping into a group cycling class to be sure it matches your ability. As you improve, try a spin outside on a traditional bike and soak up the scenery. If any exercise makes you short of breath, stop and sit down for a few minutes.

Arm Curls: Lifting light weights can help you reach a high shelf or lug a gallon (about four litres) of milk. Choose hand weights, stretchy bands, or water bottles to try arm curls. Hold the weights at your sides, palms forward. Breathe in. Now lift toward your chest, keeping elbows down, and exhaling slowly. Slowly lower your arms back down as you breathe in. Build up to two sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Forward Arm Raises: Hold weights down at your sides, palms facing in. Inhale, then exhale slowly as you raises both arms straight out front to shoulder height. Inhale as you slowly lower your arms. This strengthens your upper arms and shoulders. Build up to two sets of 10-15 repetitions. Start with light weights and go a little heavier every two to three weeks to challenge your muscles

Calf Raises: Add leg work to your routine and you’ll be able to walk easier and further. For the calf raise, stand 6-12 inches behind a sturdy chair with your feet hip-width apart. Hold on for balance. Inhale. Now, lift up high on your toes, exhaling slowly. Hold the raised position briefly. Lower your heels back to the ground, inhaling slowly. As you get stronger, do one leg at a time. Work up to two sets of 10-15 reps.

Leg Extensions: For stronger thighs, sit in a chair that supports your back. Inhale. Now exhale slowly as you stretch one leg as straight as you can, without locking your knee. Breathe in as you slowly lower your foot back to the floor. Do one set with your right leg, and then one set with your left leg. Getting too easy? Add ankle weights. Work up to two sets of 10-15 reps.

Exercise Your Diaphragm: This move strengthens a key breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Lie down with your knees bent or sit in an easy chair with one hand on your chest, one below your rib cage. Slowly inhale through your nose so that your stomach raises one hand. Exhale with pursed lips and tighten your stomach. The hand on your chest should not move. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, three or four times a day. Breathing this way will become easy and automatic.

Chair Dance: If you love to dance, try this armchair version in a class or with a DVD at home. Different programmes can get your heart pumping, or pump up your muscles, or both to all kinds of music, from big band to hip hop. Beginners might start with a class to learn the safest ways to swing and bend. Adding hand weights can increase the challenge as well as your fitness level.

Do Tai Chi: Tai Chi an ancient Chinese practice of gentle, flowing movements is a winner for people with COPD. It’s a mild workout for your heart and lungs and helps tone your muscles. It also eases stress and helps you relax, a special benefit if your COPD makes you anxious or edgy. Look for a class or video to learn the moves.

Breathe Right for Better Results: Breathe slowly during exercise. Inhale through your nose with your mouth closed. This warms and filters the air. Exhale through your mouth for twice as long as your inhale. Don’t pant. That keeps your lungs from getting all the air out. If your breath gets fast or shallow, stop and rest. Relax your body. Do pursed lip breathing: in through the nose and out slowly through pursed lips.

Schedule a Stretch: Stretch gently before and after a workout. One stretch to try: Put your hands flat on a wall at arm’s length and shoulder height. Step forward and bend your right knee. Bend your left knee until you feel a slight stretch in your calf. It shouldn’t hurt. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat with left leg. Continue switching legs for three to five reps on each leg. Enjoy!

Lizel Britz 072 243 7707

Lizel Britz

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