Authored by Revere Health

Breathing and Exercise for COPD

December 27, 2017 | Pulmonology

For people with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, exercise can be very beneficial. This is particularly true of exercise that works the heart and lungs, but when your breathing is obstructed, it can be difficult to know what kind of exercise will be beneficial and where to begin.


Exercise Benefits for COPD

Exercise offers many benefits to people who suffer from COPD, including:

  • •Improving the way the body uses oxygen, which is important because a person with COPD has to use more energy to breathe than someone without it
  • •Decreasing symptoms and improve breathing
  • •Strengthening the heart, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation
  • •Improving energy levels and allowing you to stay active
  • •Improving sleep and helping with relaxation
  • •Helping maintain a healthy body weight
  • •Enhancing mental and emotional outlook
  • •Strengthening your bones

Exercise Guidelines

Before you begin any exercise routine, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about what you can do, and how much is safe.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to exercise, start by setting some realistic goals to keep you on track. To stay motivated, choose activities you enjoy, vary your workout routine and find an exercise partner who can keep you accountable.

During your workout:

  • •Warm up for a few minutes, and generally start exercising slowly
  • •Begin at a lower intensity and add intensity as your body gets used to it; a good place to start is with about 20 to 40 minutes, two to four times per week
  • •Cool down as you end your exercise by moving more slowly
  • •Keep a record of your workouts to document progress and motivate you


Precautions and When to Stop

Precautions are important when exercising with COPD. You don’t necessarily have to stop altogether if you get short of breath while exercising – your doctor can offer specific recommendations about when you should stop. A few other precautions include:

  • •Always consult your doctor before starting a COPD exercise program. Also speak to your doctor if you change any medications.
  • •Balance exercise with rest.
  • •Wait at least an hour and a half after eating before exercising.
  • •Remember any fluid restrictions you have.
  • •Avoid hot or cold showers after exercise.
  • •Start slowly and gradually return to your routine if you’ve been away from exercise for a few days or longer

If you have COPD, you should generally avoid heavy lifting or pushing, chores like shoveling or raking, pushups or isometric exercises (pushing against immovable objects), walking up steep hills, or outdoor exercises when the weather is very hot, cold or humid.

There are certain signs that should cause you to immediately stop exercising. You should also sit down, and keep your feet raised while resting. If this doesn’t immediately make you feel better, call 911. Even if you do feel better, make sure to mention these symptoms to your doctor. They include:

  • •Nausea
  • •Dizziness
  • •Weakness
  • •Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • •Severe shortness of breath
  • •Pain
  • •Pressure or pain in the chest, arm, neck, jaw or shoulder

Good COPD Exercises

Here are a few exercise types that can help with COPD:

  • •Stretching exercises: To lengthen the muscles and increase flexibility
  • •Aerobic exercises: Using large muscle groups to move at a steady pace, working the heart and lungs and improving endurance. Can improve breathing over time
  • •Strengthening exercises: Tightening muscles until they tire, which can help increase the strength of breathing muscles when done for the upper body
  • •Breathing exercises: Things like pursed-lips breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can help with shortness of breath, and can help strengthen breathing muscles and bring more oxygen to the lungs

Your doctor can offer additional recommendations for exercising with COPD.


Revere Health Imaging offers the most advanced imaging technology in Utah Valley with convenient locations and reduced-cost exams. We even offer our imaging services at night for your convenience. Contact us today at 801-812-4624 for an appointment!


“COPD and Exercise: Breathing and Exercise Programs for COPD.” WebMD.

“Breathing Exercises with COPD.”


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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.