Keeping active when you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be challenging as breathing takes much more energy and effort.
|Exercise helps everybody stay fit and healthy and people with COPD are no different. If you are fit, you require much less breath to exercise. Therefore, the fitter you are, the easier it will be to manage activities despite breathing problems. Keeping fit will also help prevent other diseases in the future.|
One of the earliest signs of COPD is finding that you can’t manage activities as easily as you used to. You may find that you need to stop and recover half way up the stairs, or rest during a walk.
|Symptoms of breathlessness and tiredness tend to become worse over time, however many patients find that their condition is very unpredictable. One day you may feel it is easier to manage your breathlessness, and other days it might stop you carrying out any activities at all.|
The impact of COPD affects everybody differently depending on the severity of your illness. If your condition is mild, you will start to notice that walking, exercising, shopping and other leisure activities may become harder. If your condition is more severe, activities such as getting dressed, taking a bath or even combing your hair could make you breathless.
As with other long-term illnesses, COPD can cause emotional suffering as it impacts upon the lifestyle you are used to. Depression, sadness and a feeling of losing control or feeling frightened and panicky, are all common emotional side effects of living with COPD.
COPD can also impact upon relationships as many people start to feel alone or dependent on others for assistance with household activities. Some people also worry about breathlessness during sexual activity. This breathlessness can be scary and often reduces a person’s urge for sex or their enjoyment of it. It is important not to feel ashamed and to talk about your concerns with your physician or physiotherapist.
Being short of breath during activities can be quite scary. It can be tempting to avoid exercise if you think it will stop you getting breathless.If you are inactive, you will become unfit and your muscles will weaken. As a consequence, you will need to breathe even more, which will lead to more problems during even simple activities. It can also affect your mood and lead to you feeling depressed.
You should aim to stop this vicious circle right at the start by keeping active. If you maintain physical activity, your lungs and muscles will keep working as well as they can do, and your health will deteriorate much less rapidly. As well as benefits to your general health, keeping active will also help reduce breathlessness when you exercise, reduce leg tiredness, raise energy levels, improve muscle strength, boost your immune system and improve your self-esteem and mood.
|When you experience symptoms of shortness of breath, you should consult with your doctor and find out what causes these symptoms. When you suffer from COPD the following tips may help you to deal with symptoms during your physical activity.|
Depending on how severe your symptoms are and how you prefer to exercise, keeping active ranges from basic activities around the home to structured exercise sessions (pulmonary rehabilitation). A physiotherapist can help you plan activities that are right for you.
You can try to build different activities into your daily routine in order to maintain your level of fitness:
• Walking up and down the stairs
• Getting off the bus one stop early
• Taking a short walk
• Light swimming
• Keep-fit exercises
• Stretching routines at home to strengthen your muscles
If you want to improve your fitness, you will need to engage in exercise training programmes with the help of an expert, or pulmonary rehabilitation programmes. Pulmonary rehabilitation, which involves organised exercises and lessons on the lungs as part of a group, can be beneficial if you aren’t used to exercise and would like help to gradually build up your activity levels. As your fitness improves, you may then enjoy structured sessions and classes, such as aqua aerobics, yoga and dancing. Talk to your doctor about the type of exercise that is right for you and the programmes available in your area. They can also provide information on your nearest pulmonary rehabilitation session.
Things to remember:
• Always warm up and cool down after exercise
• Keep water with you to drink before, during and after exercise
• Keep your medication nearby
• Don’t push yourself beyond your limits
Stop the activity you are doing if you feel any of the following:
• Tight chest
• Dizzy or sick
• Clammy or cold
• Increasing wheeze
• Pain in your joints or muscles
• Abnormally tired
Is getting out of breath dangerous?
Breathlessness can feel scary, but increases in heart rate and breathing are normal during exercise, and are not dangerous. Your breathing should return to normal after you stop the activity. If it does not, you should contact your doctor.
If you are more short of breath than your companions during exercise you should consult a doctor and ask for advice. There are often simple solutions which can make physical activities more comfortable for you.
Would oxygen help?
Doctors provide oxygen to people based on the level of oxygen in your blood, not on how breathless you feel. You could be very short of breath, but the levels of oxygen in your blood are sufficient and by contrast, some people may need oxygen even though their breathing feels okay.
Your doctor will measure the amount of oxygen in your blood stream, and if this is below a critical level, then you will be given oxygen.
When do I need to see my doctor?
You should see your doctor initially to find out why you are short of breath during exercise and what type of exercise is right for you. You should also see a doctor if your breathing suddenly becomes worse during exercise, or it doesn’t recover after you stop exercising.
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WSD is an initiative organised by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) in collaboration with the European Lung Foundation (ELF).