Breathing Disorders

One of my clients was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). People with COPD typically are able to breathe air in but have difficulty in expelling the air out of their lungs. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, COPD is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. My client was a long-term smoker, almost thirty years. He abruptly quit smoking when he received his diagnosis. He knew that making additional lifestyle changes would improve his quality of life. He contacted me to guide him in becoming more physically active. After receiving clearance from his doctor, he started a custom, progressive exercise program that I created. His program started at his current fitness level and over time, his workouts progressed to challenge him. Now, in addition to experiencing a decrease in his COPD symptoms and being able to breathe better, he has lost weight, lowered his blood pressure, increased his energy, improved his sleep, increased his strength, and significantly enhanced his mental and emotional outlook.

Many people who have COPD are afraid to exercise or just don’t feel like it. Some attempt to exercise but easily become out of breath and feel they must stop. The lack of exercise gives rise to a more sedentary lifestyle which worsens COPD symptoms and greatly increases the risk of more serious health issues such as chest infections, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This vicious downward spiral can quickly cause an individual to become isolated and experience a severe decline in quality of life. With appropriate exercise, people with COPD can become more physically active, reduce their risk of disease, and restore their functional independence.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends the following exercise guidelines in COPD:

  • Talk to your health care provider first.
  • Gradually increase your activity level, especially if you have not been exercising regularly.
  • Remember to have fun. Choose an activity you enjoy. Exercising should be fun and not a chore. You’ll be more likely to stick with an exercise program if you enjoy the activity.
  • Wait at least 1½ hours after eating a meal before exercising.
  • Dress for the weather conditions and wear protective footwear.
  • Take time to include a five to ten-minute warm-up and a five to ten-minute cool down after the activity.
  • Schedule exercise into your daily routine. Plan to exercise at the same time every day.
  • Exercise at a steady pace. Keep a pace that allows you to still talk during the activity.
  • Stick with it. Regular exercise will help you integrate it into your lifestyle.
  • Keep an exercise record.

In addition to exercise, nutrition is vitally important in maintaining lung function and avoiding infections. Chest infections in people with COPD can be a major complication. By adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your regular diet, you can greatly improve your immune system and your body’s ability to heal. As well as improving your immune system, eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps to reduce inflammation, supports heart health, and offers many other health benefits.