Fuel for Fitness Day 5 – Exercise Improves COPD Symptoms



It is such a mystery how the body works. People often have this misconception that exercise will aggravate the shortness of breath for someone living with COPD. On the contrary, exercise helps. When you exercise, the heart beats faster, blood will transport oxygen around the body. There is a spiral of decline associated with COPD. People believe they cannot exercise and therefore don’t. This, in turn, can worsen symptoms and result in more sedentary behaviours. It is therefore recommended that people living with COPD practice physical activity and especially aerobic exercises.

What is an aerobic exercise you might ask? It’s an exercise that requires the pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to the muscles. Examples of aerobic exercises are walking, swimming, hiking and even dancing. However, it is important to seek medical advice before carrying out any exercise. Your doctor might need to change the oxygen flow from your tank. Aerobic exercises help participants to open their airways which helps to reduce shortness of breath associated with the disease.

At Siel Bleu, our Exercise, COPD & Me classes run in the community with people who are living at home. Here we find the exercises bring the people together and help them form a better support network. At some classes, there is a shop that sells cuppa. Other classes have participants bringing in biscuit to enjoy with the cuppa at the end of the classes.

Having something to look forward to will certainly improve your mood and lungs capacity when engaging in physical activity.

Our biggest achievements we have experienced with our participants is the termination of continuous oxygen usage, only on exertion. John from COPD Bray was on oxygen 24 hours a day, using up to a tank of oxygen a day; today John only requires oxygen when he’s exercising or gardening and uses about 1 tank a month. What an accomplishment!

It is really important to care for your own diet when you have COPD as extra weight might increase your shortness of breath. Extra weight in the chest and abdomen increases the work of the muscles, hence, it is important to maintain an ideal weight.

However, losing weight drastically is not ideal either as it can make you weak. Talk to your GP about your weight and get advice from them. Here are a few general tips. Bear in mind that these tips are written without taking any conditions into consideration.

1. It’s important to monitor the different elements that go into food such as sugar and sodium, not just calories. The food may be low in calories but high in sugar, which is an attribute for diabetes.

2. Avoid fad diets. This actually goes for everyone. As tempting as it seems, losing 10kg in a week is not healthy for your body and mental health. Your body won’t be able to keep up with the drastic change and you might even fall sicker. Prepare foods which are appealing to the eye such as adding purple cabbage, red pepper, sweet corn, carrot and lettuce. Shred some lean meat and mix with a simple vinaigrette dressing.

3. Studies have shown that people with COPD need vitamin C, D and E. That being said, don’ forget to have at least 5 serving of fruits and vegetables.

4. For those who exercise, it is important that you eat protein such as lean meat, eggs and oily fish.

5. Dietitian recommends older adults to eat a smaller portion of meal every 2 hours. This way you won’t get hungry easily and you won’t get shortness of breath too.

6. Limit sodium intake because salt can cause fluid retention that will worsen the effect of shortness of breath.

7. Don’t forget to hydrate yourself all the time. Keep a bottle close by and sip it as you go. Keep yourself hydrated all the time.

**Disclaimer: The advice given in this blog is meant as a suggestion only. It is important to ask your doctor/dietitian before making any changes to your lifestyle.

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