Guide to Exercising with COPD

Guide to Exercising with COPD

A very common misconception about COPD is that those diagnosed cannot effectively exercise. In fact, the opposite is true—exercise can help improve the symptoms of COPD and increase energy.

Exercise is an important part of pulmonary rehabilitation—combining exercises, breathing strategies, and education to help people with COPD improve shortness of breath and other symptoms. Making a habit of exercising regularly, while allowing yourself to take a break when your symptoms are acting up, can greatly improve your quality of life.

Read on to learn more about exercising with COPD.

Where to Start When You Have COPD

Before beginning a new exercise routine, you should consult with your doctor to find a plan that is best for you and your health goals. For more specific guidance, your doctor can refer you to another specialist, like a physical therapist or personal trainer.

Types of Exercise

Exercise can be divided into three categories: stretching, aerobic (cardiovascular), and strengthening. 


Woman sitting on ground stretching

Stretching is essentially the lengthening of the muscles in your body, and many people find it to be relaxing and therapeutic. It helps you to prepare for physical activity and helps to prevent injury. Over time, stretching regularly can improve your range of movement and increase flexibility. Stretching both prior to and after your workout is an important part of the warm-up and cool-down process. It is important to be gentle and breathe through your stretching routine. Consult a physician for recommendations specific to the exercises and muscle groups you want to target.

Aerobic/Cardiovascular Exercise

Man running along sidewalk by water

Aerobic exercise, “steady physical activity of large muscle groups,”  promotes the health of your heart and lungs. Some examples of this type of activity include walking, biking, and swimming. It is recommended that all people aim for about half an hour of aerobic activity a few times a week. Remember to start slowly as your ability to perform these activities will improve the more you do them. Be gentle with yourself and acknowledge that all movement is good. 


Two hands lifting pink weights

Strengthening, or resistance training, makes your muscles stronger (including the ones you use to breathe). It is essentially the repeated contraction of your muscles until they become tired. For people with COPD, upper body strengthening exercises are particularly effective in improving the muscles you use to breathe. Similar to aerobic exercise, the more you work at strength training specific muscle groups, the stronger they will get. 

Focus on Your Breathing

If you regularly use supplemental oxygen, you should also use it while exercising. Talk to your doctor about any adjustments to your oxygen levels that may need to be made for times of physical activity. The flow rate will be different than your at-rest flow rate.

It is also important to focus on your breathing while exercising. Remember to inhale prior to a movement, and exhale through the most challenging parts of your workout. Pace yourself and remember strategies like pursed lip breathing (link) that can help regulate your breathing while exercising. PEP Buddy is particularly convenient during times of physical activity and can fit into your fitness routine quite easily.


PEP Buddy: Better Breathing, Backed by Science

PEP Buddy is a simple, portable, clinically proven medical device that reduces breathlessness so you can increase your activity level. PEP Buddy can also help to prevent significant declines in blood oxygen levels during activity. 

Learn more about easing your shortness of breath with PEP Buddy today.

This blog is for educational purposes only; talk to your provider to understand recommendations specific to you.