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November is National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) month. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This problem refers to a group of lung diseases that causes damage to the airways and air sacs in the lungs. People with COPD suffer from diminished airflow and difficulty breathing. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two of the most common types of COPD. The damage can't be reversed, so treatment includes medications and lifestyle changes designed to control symptoms and minimize further damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Exercise is an important part of life for those with COPD because it improves the overall strength and endurance of respiratory muscles. When you exercise, muscles adapt and use oxygen more efficiently so your lungs don't have to work so hard. Also, in addition to improvement in breathing, exercise boosts mental health, helps maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, and improves circulation. Most importantly, exercise will improve your quality of life with COPD.
Before you begin an exercise program, see your family physician or pulmonologist for approval. Then, see a physical therapist to design a program specific to you needs. Always begin slowly and rest if you get short of breath, have chest pain, feel dizzy or sick to your stomach.
Endurance Exercises: While not all of these endurance exercises may be appropriate for you, one or two of these may offer a good starting point.
Walking is free exercise and can be done in some form by almost everyone…even with an assistive device such as a cane or walker. For those with COPD who are active and fit – walk 4-5 days per week for 30 to 45 minutes. Less fit individuals can walk for 15 to 20 minutes. For those with COPD who are in poor condition and have significant SOB – walk for 2-3 minutes (to the bathroom or around the house) every 30 to 45 minutes. Try not to sit for 60 minutes without getting up and walking around.
Posture Exercises: Perform 5 repetitions each – 3 -5 times per day. Posture exercises are designed to keep your body more upright and prevent rounded shoulders and forward head/neck. More erect posture promotes better breathing.
More Information: “Better Breathers Club,” in conjunction with the American Lung Association, offers a free local support group to help patients and their families suffering from COPD and chronic lung disease. Meetings are at Geisinger Community Medical Center. For more information call 570-969-8986.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
Keep moving, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton, PA and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College