What? Me? Exercise? This is what almost every patient with COPD says to me when I first talk to them about joining a pulmonary rehabilitation program. But we want our patients with COPD to exercise, to move and to get their groove back. Why? Here are some of the facts.
First and foremost no matter who we are, with or without lung disease, we need to exercise. It is recommended by American College of Sports Medicine as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that an adult should get at least 150 minutes of moderate walking each week (described as brisk walking) as well as some muscle strengthening activities too.
Even for the average person, trying to squeeze in time to exercise can be hard to do. My patients look at me and say, But I have lung disease, or I wear oxygen, too, and I say to them, Have no fear, pulmonary rehabilitation is here!
Pulmonary rehabilitation helps you gain confidence in your ability to exercise and to exercise safely. Most programs accept patients with moderate, severe and very severe COPD.
The Different Stages of COPD-and Exercise
Individuals with mild COPD do not need oxygen and scheduled bronchodilators, and at this level of the disease, can begin a walking program of their own. They can start by going to a local gym or YMCA and actively work on preventative measures.
Beginning your own program can be hard, so it helps to find a workout buddy. Engage someone else to walk with you or do some simple muscle strengthening exercises. If the weather is lousy, or you have a limited budget and you cannot afford the gym, see if your local mall has a mall-walking program.
If you have moderate, severe or very severe COPD, pulmonary rehabilitation is the place for you. At this level of the disease, individuals need a little more care. At this stage, some people might be using more inhaled medications, or they may be on oxygen at night or 24/7. It may be intimidating to begin a workout regimen, especially if you have a shortness of breath, which can lead to certain frustrations at your limitations.
You need to remember that one of the goals of pulmonary rehabilitation is for you take what you learned out of the classroom and do the workouts at home. The goal of the exercise is to allow you to do more activities at home, including social events, family events and even household chores.
Exercises in Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program
Rehabilitation Program One of the goals of pulmonary rehabilitation is to get patients up, walking and moving around again. It can be done on a treadmill, a walking path or a track. Most patients start off slowly and increase their time and perhaps their speed. Walking helps leg muscles become stronger.
Another good exercise for your legs is riding a stationary bicycle or other similar machines. Stationary bicycles come in many shapes and sizes. Some use just the legs, some are recumbent bicycles, and some are airdyne bicycles. A recumbent bicycle allows you to bicycle while sitting in a chair than an actual bicycle seat. An airdyne bicycle allows you to peddle your legs Pulmonary patients must also do some upper body and arm exercises. These can be done in multiple ways. Some programs have what is called the upper body ergometer (arm cranking). Patients may refer to this as a bicycle for the arms. The airdyne bicycle combines both arms and legs, so you are doing two exercises at once.
As your disease progresses, you may find it hard to use your arms and legs at the same time during exercise. The important thing about exercising is to pace your breathing and work your muscles. It is perfectly fine to separate your exercises. For example, you may ride a stationary bike for a period of time to exercise your legs and then exercise your arms with the arm ergometer. Lastly, most programs use some form of weights and/or resistance training to help strengthen both upper and lower body muscles. It is important to do these exercises. Many of them can be paced to your breathing ability, and also can be done in a chair or standing up.
Examples include simple biceps curls, leg lifts with ankle weights, and front or side arm raises. Using simple hand weights (or even soup cans) or exercise bands can help build your muscles.