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For Alphas who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the condition causes the lungs to gradually lose their ability to get enough oxygen to the body. One way to slow down the progression of COPD is to keep your chest muscles active through aerobic exercise, stretching, strengthening, and special breathing exercises.

Stretching and Strength Training for COPD

Many COPD patients don’t get enough exercise because they think that feeling breathless and tired is bad for their lungs. Actually, it’s just the opposite. “For COPD patients, it is important to get some exercise daily, as inactivity causes deconditioning, making breathing worse with activity,” says Debapriya Datta, MD, a pulmonary specialist at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Dr. Datta recommends the following exercises for stretching and strengthening at home:

  • Raise your arms as you breathe in, and lower them slowly as you breathe out.
  • Sit in a straight-backed chair with your arms outstretched. Breathe in, and then slowly breathe out as you turn your trunk and arms to the left. Rest and then repeat on the other side.
  • While seated, lift one leg up as you breathe in, then lower it, breathing out. Repeat with the other leg.

The Importance of Aerobic Exercise for COPD

Aerobic exercise involves moving large muscle groups in a rhythmic and steady way that builds up your body’s ability to use oxygen. Examples are walking, biking, low-impact aerobics, and water aerobics. “Walking daily is one of the best forms of exercise for people with COPD. Start with walking as far as you can without getting short of breath,” advises Datta. “Continue deep breathing as you walk. Stop to rest as needed and gradually increase the duration and distance of your walk.” Here’s how the benefits of regular aerobic exercise help COPD patients:

• Decreasing your resting heart rate and blood pressure can improve your breathing.
• Improved circulation lets your body use oxygen more efficiently.
• Building endurance decreases shortness of breath.
• Aerobic exercise reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.

There are many ways to be more active in day-to-day life. For example, walking up stairs, doing housework, gardening, walking your dog, or playing with your children or grandchildren. Break up periods of sitting by walking around when you’re on the phone or during TV advertising breaks. Try getting off the bus one stop early, or walking to the shops if you usually go by car. If walking there and back seems too much, walk there and get the bus back.

What do you do to stay active?