How Exercise Helps Patients with COPD

weights, ball, scale



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases. The most common are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There is no cure for COPD, but COPD rehabilitation helps a patient improve his quality of life. One of the primary components of COPD rehab is exercise.


Exercise and COPD

Ironically, exercise is the one activity that people with COPD generally avoid. Because fatigue and breathlessness are major symptoms of COPD, exercise is counterintuitive. However, inactivity can result in the deterioration of cardiovascular function and muscle mass. As physical endurance declines due to inactivity, basic daily life tasks become more and more difficult to accomplish. In fact, inactivity among patients of COPD is linked to a poorer quality of life, increased dependence on healthcare, and an earlier death.


While lung function is not altered with rehabilitation, improved muscle function, increased motivation, improved mood, and better cardiovascular functioning are clear benefits. With these measurable results, patients are more likely to continue exercise even after the completion of a COPD rehabilitation program. If discontinued, symptoms like breathlessness rapidly return.


Exercise like walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling, skating, low-impact aerobics, and resistance training all help to build the respiratory muscles. A regular exercise routine maintained for the long-term is key to a positive outcome.


Co-Morbid Diseases

Assessing patients for COPD rehab includes consideration of co-morbid diseases like metabolic conditions, infections, cognitive dysfunction, depression, anxiety, etc. Early exercise intervention may also have a positive impact on these co-morbidities. However, patients will require a thorough screening to determine the dangers and risks involved with rehab as well as how to tailor the program to the specific needs of the patient.


Positive Outcome

When left untreated, COPD can cause heart issues and serious respiratory infections. With a combination of medication, rehabilitation, and continued exercise,  patients with COPD will have an improved quality of life including less fatigue, easier mobility, improved social interactions, and more endurance to accomplish daily life tasks.




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