The thought of starting an exercise program can be daunting, particularly for those who have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Persons diagnosed with diseases of the lungs may wonder how they can start or continue a heart-healthy exercise routine. Luckily, these patients have options.
COPD is actually an umbrella term for a group of lung diseases. These conditions black airflow, making breathing difficult. Because exercise increases the body’s need for oxygen, working out can be a scary proposition for COPD patients.
The most common conditions categorized as COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These diseases can be managed with treatment but cannot be cured. They require diagnosis by a medical professional. These diseases can last anywhere from a few years to the remainder of a person's life.
For those looking to exercise despite these conditions, there is a wide range of options. Before selecting a modality, COPD patients should always consult a doctor first. Commonly selected modalities for COPD patients include walking, cycling, aerobics, and swimming.
Reasons for taking on such a program include improved heart health, improved circulation, reduced COPD symptoms, increased endurance, lower blood pressure, and many more. For achieving optimal benefits, it is recommended that exercisers gradually work up to fitness sessions lasting 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. Many find that exercising every other day helps them to keep a regular schedule.
No matter what modality a person chooses, every exercise session should start with a warm-up to avoid sudden stress on the heart, muscles, and lungs. To do this, exercise scientists suggest low-intensity movement with movement patters similar to the intended exercise. Also important are gentle range-of-motion activities to prepare the joints for movement. Next comes the conditioning phase. This phase is the longest part of the session and is where the highest level of intensity is achieved. Intensity can be monitored using wearable heart rate monitors or via manual heart rate checks.
The key to getting into a sustainable exercise routine is being sure to start with something easy and building up over time. Beginners can start with as few as 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and increase the time gradually as their body adapts.