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COPD and Exercise: Breathing and Exercise Programs for COPD

COPD and Exercise Guidelines

You may find that it helps to exercise at the same time each day; late morning or early afternoon may be times when you have more energy. Here are some other basic guidelines for exercise when you have COPD:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Gradually increase the number of minutes and days you exercise. A good goal is to exercise 20 to 40 minutes, two to four times a week.
  • Start out slow. Warm up for a few minutes.
  • Choose activities you enjoy, but 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. Instead, slow down and continue exercising. If shortness of breath becomes severe, then stop exercising.

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 with 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 one and a half hours after eating before beginning to exercise.
  • Remember any fluid restrictions you have when you drink fluids while exercising.
  • 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
  • Push-ups or 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 weight lifting, jogging, or swimming are OK for you to do when you have COPD.

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 quickly, call your doctor.

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Pain
  • Pressure or pain in your chest,arm, neck, jaw, or shoulder
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 20, 2012

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