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COPD Health Center

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COPD and Exercise: Breathing and Exercise Programs for COPD

COPD and Exercise Guidelines

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Gradually increase the number of minutes and days you exercise. A good goal is to exercise 20 to 40 minutes, 2 to 4 times a week.
  • Start out slow. Warm up for a few minutes.
  • Choose activities you enjoy, and vary them to help you stay motivated.
  • Find an exercise partner.
  • Keep a record of your exercise to help you stay on track.
  • As you end your exercise, cool down by moving more slowly.

COPD and Exercise Precautions

It's good to take precautions when exercising with COPD, but remember that shortness of breath doesn't always mean you should stop altogether. Ask your doctor about when you should stop exercising and rest.

Here are other exercise precautions:

  • Always consult a doctor or other health care provider before starting a COPD exercise program. If you have a change in any medications, talk to your doctor before continuing your exercise routine.
  • Balance exercise with rest. If you feel tired, start at a lower level. If you feel very tired, rest, and try again the next day.
  • Wait at least an hour and a half after eating before beginning to exercise.
  • When you drink fluids while exercising, remember any fluid restrictions you have.
  • Avoid hot or cold showers after exercising.
  • If you've been away from exercise for several days, start up slowly, and gradually return to your regular routine.

Exercises to avoid when you have COPD:

  • Heavy lifting or pushing
  • Chores such as shoveling, mowing, or raking
  • Pushups, sit-ups, or isometric exercises, which involve pushing against immovable objects
  • Outdoor exercises when the weather is very cold, hot, or humid
  • Walking up steep hills

Ask your doctor whether exercises like weightlifting, jogging, and swimming are OK for you to do.

COPD and Exercise: When to Stop

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, stop your COPD exercise program right away. Sit down, and keep your feet raised while resting. If you don't feel better right away, call 911. Even if you do feel better, make sure you tell your doctor right away about any of these symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 11, 2014
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