Lace up for Lungs: COPD Awareness Month

The 2022 theme for COPD Awareness Month is “Lace up for Lungs.” The focus is on early diagnosis and exercise to improve breathing and quality of life. “Wear orange, lace up and move for our mission!” says the COPD Foundation this month. 

What is COPD?

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease of the lungs which affects breathing, 

What is COPD?

Some 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and experts estimate that there may be another 12 million who have the disorder but have not been diagnosed yet. 

COPD is the third most common cause of death and disability in the United States. It can often become worse during winter months as respiratory ailments like the flu spread, cold air makes breathing more difficult, and people spend more time indoors.

Exercise and COPD

So why lace up for COPD? It is surprising for some patients, but exercise is actually good for COPD

COPD makes it hard to breathe, which can lead to fatigue and feelings of weakness. Exercising may not be high on your priority list if you have to struggle for breath. However, the right exercise can benefit COPD patients in many ways:

  • Regular exercise helps your body use oxygen more efficiently.
  • You may feel more energy.
  • You may feel less stress and anxiety.
  • Your muscles will get stronger — and that can include the muscles that help you breathe.
  • You may sleep better. 
  • You might feel less shortness of breath.

The key is to choose the right kind and level of exercise.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a planned program of education and exercise specifically designed for people with COPD and other lung disorders. 

However, other forms of exercise are also good for people with COPD:

  • Stretching, combining gentle stretching with controlled breathing, is relaxing.
  • Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or biking. The general recommendation for this type of exercise is 150 minutes a week, or half an hour five days a week. This can be a good goal for COPD patients.
  • Resistance training can strengthen the muscles that help you breathe. Ask your doctor for exercises you can do at home.

When not to exercise

Exercise is generally safe and desirable for people with COPD. Get your doctor’s advice and okay before you begin a new exercise program. However, there ar times when you should not exercise if you have COPD:

  • If you are out of oxygen
  • If you have a fever or an infection
  • If you have chest pain
  • If you feel nauseated

If you are ready to lace up for COPD, put on something orange and get going! If you have questions, talk with your pulmonologist