Improving Your Exercise Tolerance and Quality of Life with COPD


If you were to honestly ask yourself: What stops me from exercising? And your answer is that your COPD makes it too hard for you to breath, this article is for you!


If you have COPD, symptoms like difficulty breathing and muscle fatigue are most likely the main reasons you avoid from working out or beginning an exercise program in the first place. This is unfortunate because the best way to improve exercise tolerance and decrease breathlessness in COPD is to be active.

If you do not already know this, doing something active everyday is one of the best ways to treat COPD, and reduce your experience with symptoms while also slowing down the progression of your COPD, thereby adding years to your life.


If you're finding it difficult to exercise with COPD, try accomplishing some of these methods in this article to help improve your endurance and boost your energy levels, improving your well-being overall.


Talk to Your Doctor


Doctor checking patient


Before getting into a new workout regime, speak with your doctor about exercise and your COPD.


It is important to review your health status and go over the specifics of your medications with your doctor. After this, your doctor may also suggest you take an exercise tolerance test (ETT). This test will measure your endurance and your overall ability to exercise.


Based on the results of your ETT your doctor should be able to help you organize an exercise program. This personalized exercise program will depend on your abilities, lung capacity, and COPD severity.


You exercise program should include a variety of stretching, strength training, and cardiovascular exercises, along with some light interval training.


A exercise program that will enhance your tolerance for physical activity

Water aerobics


Remember the whole idea of beginning an exercise program is to build up the endurance you need to live a healthier and longer life with COPD. This means that you should start small, and do not try exercises that cause you to feel overwhelmed or exhausted.


In no time, you will begin to notice your capabilities are growing, but this will not happen overnight. Be patient and kind to yourself in the first few weeks, and your body will thank you for it!


Breathing exercises

You should practice certain breathing exercises, before performing any exercise program. Using breathing techniques while you exercise is a great way to help increase your lung capacity to be able to handle the added activity.


Breathing exercise can also be done while you are not doing any kind of exercise, because they help increase the capacity of your lungs which will also help reduce the symptoms associated with COPD.


Breathing exercise done regularly, can help make physical actives easier and more comfortable.

man resting

Breathing exercise include:

  • pursed lip breathing
  • coordinated breathing
  • deep breathing
  • huff cough
  • diaphragmatic breathing


While you are exercising, always breathe slowly to save your breath. Inhale through your nose by keeping your mouth closed. This will warm up, filter, and moisturize the air you breathe in. Exhale your breath through pursed lips.


By breathing out slowly and gently through pursed lips you will develop more complete lung actions, strengthening your lungs and improving the quality of each breath you take.


Also remember, exercise will not harm your lungs, even when you experience shortness of breath during an activity, this means that your body needs more oxygen. If you slow down your breathing and concentrate on exhaling through pursed lips, you will restore oxygen to your system more rapidly, thereby makes the activity more comfortable.



Stretching and Flexibility


Stretching exercises are movements, postures, and poses that extend your muscles and ligaments. That being said, it is very important to “warm up” before you stretch. If your muscles are cold and tight, you may pull or tear muscles by stretching them out.


Think of your muscles as rubber bands, when the rubber is warm the band can continue to stretch further without tearing. If you freeze the rubber band and continue to stretch it out, it will tear or rip in half very easily.


If you consistently practice yoga and other stretching exercises where you are slowly lengthening your muscles, it will increase your range of motion and flexibility. It is a good rule of thumb to stretch before and after any cardiovascular exercises to prep your muscles for activity, thereby preventing the risk of injury, and after, to cool down and prevent muscle strain, and soreness.


Strength-Training Workouts

elderly workout class


Strength training exercises are done by repeatedly contracting or tightening your muscles until they become tired. This can be done using weights or doing body weight exercises. With COPD, it is good to focus on doing upper-body strengthening exercises, as they are especially helpful in improving the strength of your respiratory muscles.


Also by focusing your exercise program on strength training exercises this will result in less shortness of breath, and a great substitute rather than trying to do more cardio workouts. You are likely less able to tolerate much cardio with your COPD.


Aerobic Workouts

Tia chi class


Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, dancing, and water aerobics, all of which utilize large muscle groups to strengthen your heart and lungs. This work will improve your body’s ability to use oxygen.


These exercise will be difficult at first, especially with your COPD, however research shows that getting regular cardiovascular exercise can improve your breathing and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.


Interval Training



During interval training, you repeat sequences of high-intensity exercise scattered with light exercise and some periods of rest.


For example, you may walk for 30 seconds, rest for 1 minute, then walk again for 1 minute, and rest for 2 minutes, and repeat the cycle for a total of 10 minutes. This training will allows you to catch your breath after more vigorous exercise.


Interval training in COPD patients is often used as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.


How often should you exercise if you have COPD?

The duration and the amount of exercise you need is completely dependent on your skill set. If you were always an athlete and have a higher tolerance for exercise already, you will need to exercise more frequently than someone who has never been interested in physical work outs before.


In order improve your tolerance for exercise you have to understand what you base level of physical activity is to begin with.


The frequency of your exercise program is how often you complete all of the exercises listed about. On average, to achieve maximum benefits, you should gradually work up to an exercise session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least 3 to 4 times a week. By exercising every other day you will be able to keep a regular exercise schedule, and by giving yourself a rest day in between, you will not get burnt out.




How can oxygen therapy help to improve exercise tolerance?

If your health care professional has told you to use supplemental oxygen while doing activities, you should also use oxygen with exercise. Your usual oxygen flow rate (the number you set on your oxygen machine) may not be enough for you during exercise.


If you are preparing for an exercise program, speak to your doctor about the supplement oxygen requirements you have, and how to adjust you oxygen intake when you are exercising to match the recommended dose of oxygen you need for exercise.


If you do not already have a portable oxygen concentrator (POC), these little light-weight yet powerful machines are perfect for preforming any kind of physical activity.


For example the Caire Freestyle Comfort Portable Oxygen Concentrator only weighs 5 pounds and can operate at a pulse flow setting from 1 to 6. If your favorite form or physical activity is walking, having a POC that can join you will only incentivize you to walk further and more often!


yoga with Caire Freestyle Comfort


The Caire Freestyle has a concave side to fit around your hip when you are carrying it across your shoulder. The carrying case is open at the top, making it easy to adjust the controls and pulse flow settings at anytime.


On the lowest flow setting with the 16-cell battery, you’ll experience an astounding 16 hours of battery life! That’s 3 more hours than top-of-its-class portable oxygen concentrators like the Inogen One G5. What this means is that you’ll be able to stay out walking or exercising and about for longer without having to come back home to recharge your unit.


Speaking of the Inogen One G5, this unit is also great for exercise and physical activity. The G5 is 4.7 pounds and can be set at a pulse flow of 1-6, making it one of the most powerful but also the lightest POC on the market.


Caire Freestyle Comfort


So as your breathing rate and requirements change depending on if you are laying in bed or exercising, the Inogen One G5 has the ability to satisfy your oxygen demands.


The One G5 also has extended longer-lasting battery life compared to other Inogen models, allowing you to be mobile and stay mobile for longer periods of time.


There are so many other options when it comes to selecting the best portable oxygen concentrator for your exercise requirements, as well as your daily life. In order to ensure you purchase the right unit for your lifestyle, first speak with your doctor.


Your doctor will inform you how much oxygen you need per minute (LPM or Lp/min), and the correct dose (pulse or continuous flow) of oxygen your lungs require to function properly. Your doctor will also write a prescription for supplemental oxygen which is required if you are purchasing a POC or home oxygen concentrator from a licensed distributor.


LPT Package


LPT Medical offers products from the most reputable manufacturers in the industry including but not limited to Inogen, Philips Respironics, Drive Medical, and more. These are the companies that are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for patients suffering with a debilitating respiratory condition. And by offering these brands, we ensure that more people around the country have access to the most state-of-the-art oxygen therapy equipment in the world.




Stay motivated and continue to exercise

Exercise itself cannot cure or reverse COPD, but it can change the way you feel, breathe, and function.


Begin your exercise routine slowly by starting with easier exercises. Even if you think you want to push yourself and your limits, take it slow. Your muscles need to adjust to working like that!


The exercises you do should begin to get more challenging, and over time, you can walk faster for longer periods of time. Increase the amount of weight you use for strengthening exercises. And breathe better over-all. When you’ve reached the point that you’re feeling better and breathing better, keep this up every week at least three times a week.


If you are in the market for a POC, LPT medical is always here to help you find the best unit that will fit into your lifestyle and hopefully get you started or progressing further with your exercise program. To speak with a respiratory specialist call us at 1-800-946-1201.



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