Given that people with COPD have difficulty breathing, it seems almost cruel to suggest exercise. However, because the respiratory system is under attack, it's even more important for it to be functioning as well as possible. The muscles must be exercised regularly, lest they atrophy (shrink) and lose their strength. Then the body would be not only air-deprived, but physically weak too. Muscles need oxygen to grow, remain healthy and function efficiently, including your breathing muscles.
Few would argue that walking is an excellent addition to your Healthwise Exercise program and with careful planning, you can benefit from a walking program. Before you begin, ask your doctor if it is advisable. Ask for recommendations and whether you need to adjust your oxygen use. Learn to use a pulse oximeter, which measures your oxygen levels – making sure to keep your o2 at 90 or above.
Buy a nice pair of comfortable walking shoes. There are many models designed specifically for walking, to maximize the benefit and minimize the effort. Get the right size shoes. Too-tight shoes will restrict blood flow to the feet. Too-loose shoes will cause blistering. Buy some lightweight, breathable walking clothing and hit the pavement, literally, not figuratively.
As you walk, maintain proper posture, remaining upright, rolling off the heel. Don't lean forward or arch backward. Walking with incorrect posture will injure your back and restrict your most important breathing muscles – your diaphragm. Your strides should be easy and slow initially. After you warm up, increase the length and speed of your steps.
Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, with your lips shaped into an O. Your exhale should last twice as long as your inhale. Count your paces, breathing in for 2 steps and breathing out for 4. If you get winded or tired, stop and take some deep breaths. Monitor your heart rate and oxygen level and don't overdo it. Start with short walks and build up your tolerance level. This will strengthen and bolster your cardiopulmonary system.
Try to walk daily. When the weather doesn't cooperate, take your workout indoors. Shopping malls and recreation centers have walking clubs. Make some friends and walk together. While COPD may require extra preparation, the benefits derived from walking are worth the effort. The air is still free, so help yourself to all you can. See other side for your bonus exercises. Please choose weight amount according to your tolerance. Begin with light weights and gradually increase.
Please check with your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.
The COPD DVD can be purchased at www.healthwiseexercise.com