When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the very thought of exercising might feel overwhelming. However, exercising is one of the most important things that you can do to manage your condition. Regular exercise can help with lung function and can even slow the progression of the disease.

However, there’s no denying that being short of breath can lead to inactivity. And inactivity is only going to hurt you in the long run. But you can break free of this cycle, and you don’t have to start by running a marathon. Consult with your physician before starting any new exercise program, and start slowly. Use these COPD and exercise guidelines as a baseline to develop your own personal exercise plan.

Why Do I Need COPD and Exercise Guidelines?


These guidelines can help you to build a plan for success, resulting in a better quality of life. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, exercising can help you to accomplish the following:

  • Improve circulation and help body to use oxygen more effectively
  • Improve COPD symptoms
  • Build energy levels and endurance
  • Strengthen heart and cardiovascular system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve muscle tone and strength
  • Improve balance
  • Improve joint flexibility
  • Strengthen bones
  • Reduce body fat
  • Reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression
  • Boost self-image and self-esteem
  • Improve sleep

The benefits of exercising are many, and you can’t afford not to try. Imagine what effect even just a few of these benefits will have on your life. As you’re exercising, remember the end goal that you want to accomplish. What’s the most meaningful to you? Maybe it’s having a better self-image, or reducing symptoms. Whatever it is, keep that front and center in your mind. As exercise guru Jillian Michaels says, if you know your why, you can tolerate any how.

Great Exercises for COPD

Michael Berry, Ph.D., chair of the department of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., recommends the following exercises for people with COPD: walking, stationary biking and elliptical training. These cardiovascular exercises are a great way to get your heart rate up without overdoing it – because you can go at your own pace. Start slowly, and gradually increase the speed and duration of exercise as you become more fit.

Strength training is another key component of your COPD workout. People naturally see a decline in muscle strength as they age, making it more important to work your muscles to stay strong.

Regular weight training helps to improve skeletal muscle function, enabling you to remain active for longer periods of time. When you have COPD, walking can be difficult because you’re already short of breath. Focus on exercises such as walking or cycling that build your leg muscles, so you’re not straining both your legs and lungs when you walk. Exercising your body and upper arms also helps you to more comfortably accomplish daily tasks, such as pouring a glass of milk or putting dishes away.

How Often Do I Workout with COPD?

Set achievable goals for yourself and mark your workouts on your calendar. Planning and writing down your goals are keys for success. But how often should you workout? At first, it might only be once a week. If that’s all you can commit to at the beginning, that’s okay. Slow and steady is a great way to incorporate long-term changes into your life.

Ideally, you will want to work up to an exercise session that lasts 20 to 30 minutes at least three or four times a week. It will take time to figure out how this best works with your schedule. When you’re starting out, try to workout out at the time of day that you have the most energy. Maybe working out every other day is the best way for you to stay on track. Each person is different, and you will have to determine what works best for you as you move forward.

The most important thing is being patient with yourself, and congratulating yourself on your progress. If your first day of exercise consists of a walk around the block or five minutes of cycling, see that as a success. Anything is better than nothing, and in time, you will work your way up to being able to do more. Positive self-talk is the best motivation.

Breathing Exercises to Fight Anxiety


These COPD and exercise guidelines would not be complete if we did not address the emotional aspect of exercising with COPD. You might feel a little anxious about starting a new exercise program, wondering if it will cause a symptom flare-up. In order to maintain a regular exercise routine, you have to learn to deal with the panicky or anxious feelings that might come along with it.

If you’re feeling anxious, stop and take a deep breath. Try breathing out twice as long as you breathe in. For example, take a deep breath in through your nose while counting to four. Hold the breath for a moment, then breathe out to the count of eight.

For more breathing exercises, read Best Breathing Exercises for COPD.

We wish you the best as you embark on your new exercise journey, and hope that you find this guide to be helpful. Please comment below and share with others what exercise strategies have worked well for you.

If you are interested in exploring more options for COPD management, cellular therapy might be a great choice for you. Many patients experience a reduction in symptoms and improvement in the quality of life after receiving cellular therapy from the Lung Health Institute. Contact us today for more information.