If you suffer from any kind of lung condition (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or bronchiectasis), you live with one very persistent reminder: you’re always out of breath.
COPD is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Your lungs airways and air sacs become less stretchy and the walls between the air sacs are broken down. Sometimes the walls of the airways become thick and inflamed, and may become clogged by mucus.
As time goes on, it gets more difficult to go about business as usual. Your lungs remind you of your disease every time you take a breath. It can be very discouraging when even simple actions, like walking across the house, makes it so difficult to breathe.
It may look like an uphill battle from here on out, but there are things you can do to take control of COPD, strengthen your lungs, and breathe a little easier. It’s never too late to improve.
Whether you have just been diagnosed or have been living with COPD for years, any amount of physical activity will strengthen your lungs and increase circulation.
And to my patients and I, this is very good news!
Let’s go over 5 ways you can improve your breathing with physical activity.
Before you start an exercise program, you need to see your physician and get approval.
Smell the Roses, Blow Out the Candles
I tell all of my COPD patients this. When you inhale to smell something, you breathe much deeper than normal. And trying to blow out candles empties your lungs completely. If you do both of these your lungs will take in more oxygen and get rid of more toxins.
This is one of the best ways to start building up your lungs and endurance. Remember, start short. Don’t set a goal at first, just see how far you can comfortably go. Stop and rest as soon as you’re short of breath.
Once you’ve accomplished some moderate walking, you can “step” up your game by climbing stairs. Hold the handrail and take your time. Breathe in on rests and exhale when you step up. Stairs can be great practice if your goal is to get out and hike.
One of the biggest problems that come with shortness of breath is anxiety. You start feeling unable to breath, so you get anxious, which causes you to breathe more rapidly, causing you more tightness, and that makes you more anxious which causes you to… you get the idea.
Yoga helps you concentrate on your breathing and learn to relax. Mastering that focus means you can break that anxiety cycle before it starts, which can save you from emergency oxygen.
Yoga also teaches you to breathe through the moves, instead of holding your breath.
Get a Fitness Buddy
If you aren’t able to breathe well enough to talk without much effort, you may be working too intensely at this stage. Have a friend tag along on walks, or keep you talking during strength training. Of course there’s the benefit of extra motivation to help you stay on track. They might even join you in the workout!
Exercise can make the difference between not being able to leave your bed, or leading the life you want to. Don’t let your COPD condition keep you from spending your time the way you want to spend it.
Take our COPD workshop in our Health Education department. We’ll discuss the basics all the way to nutrition, and you’ll learn how to start a plan of action that will lead you down the road to better breathing.
You can sign up online here.
Dr. Paul Ahluwalia M.D. provides care for Pulmonary Disease and Internal Medicine and is committed to helping Hesperia and Apple Valley breath better.