A common symptom of COPD is to feel short of breath when you exercise. You may be tempted to stop exercising to avoid shortness of breath. But the less you move, the more short of breath you will become. Regular exercise is one of the most important ways to help manage COPD.
Avoid the downward spiral of inactivity. Here’s how it happens:
You get short of breath when you exercise, so you become less active.
When you are less active, you become less fit and more short of breath.
This increased shortness of breath in turn causes you to be even more inactive.
Exercise is important for everyone including people with COPD. Learning other aspects of managing COPD such as breathing and energy management and medication can help you to exercise more. You may also want to join a pulmonary rehabilitation program if there is one in your community.
How can I find a pulmonary rehabilitation program or an exercise maintenance program in my community?
Pulmonary rehabilitation teaches people with lung disease many skills that can help to improve exercise tolerance, reduce shortness of breath and fatigue, and conserve (manage) energy. It is also a great way to be in touch with other people who also have lung disease.
Some communities also offer an exercise maintenance program that allows people to continue exercising once they have completed a pulmonary rehabilitation program. In some communities, where there is no pulmonary rehabilitation program, a community exercise maintenance program can fill the need to exercise in a safe, supervised setting.
To find out if there is a pulmonary rehabilitation program or an exercise maintenance program in your area, go to https://www.lung.ca/lung-health/get-help and enter your province and town or your postal code and a search distance.
Fitness for Breath is an exercise maintenance program with several locations across Ontario. To learn more visit the Fitness for Breath website at fitnessforbreath.ca.
What can I do if there is no exercise program in my community?
Try to exercise regularly or you will lose the benefits of it. Aim for at least three times per week and work towards 30 minutes at a time. You can start with a few minutes at a time and when you are comfortable, try to increase the time. Physical activity can help you maintain independence, increase energy level, improve mood and could help keep you out of the hospital.
I’ve been diagnosed with COPD. Does it mean I will be on oxygen?
No. Only people who have a low level of oxygen in their blood need supplemental oxygen. Regular low oxygen levels in your blood is called hypoxemia (hi-pox-eem-ee-a). In order to know if you require oxygen, your health-care provider will order a test called an arterial blood gas.
The main benefit from oxygen therapy used as prescribed (at least 15 hours per day) is that it can:
Oxygen is not addicting. If it has been prescribed, you need to use it. Avoiding it because you believe you will become addicted or for any other reason will not help you. It is important to know however that oxygen is considered to be a drug. Do not increase the level unless a health-care provider has advised you to.
I have been diagnosed with COPD and was told to quit smoking. If I stop smoking, can my COPD get better?
Quitting smoking is the single most important step you can take to slow down the rate of lung function worsening, improve your health and your quality of life. These are so many health benefits to quitting smoking. When you quit smoking:
Your lungs will be healthier over time
You will live longer than if you continued smoking
You will have fewer COPD symptoms
I like to exercise outside, but I worry about the effect of pollution on my lungs.
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) can help you to monitor outdoor air quality and adjust your outdoor activity accordingly. On those days when you know that smog levels will be high, you may decide to limit your time spent outdoors and exercise indoors. You may be more comfortable staying inside in a cool environment that is air-conditioned or shaded. Find more information and your current and forecast AQHI levels at www.airhealth.ca.
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