Respiratory disease now kills more people in the UK
per year than heart disease and is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths. COPD leads
damaged airways in the lungs,
causing them to become narrower and making it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs.
Getting out of breath can be frightening which makes breathlessness worse. In trying to avoid
this, people often reduce the amount of activity they do. This can have a detrimental affect as
over time patients become more unfit, tired and breathless. By taking regular supervised
exercise and increasing muscle strength and tone, people will find breathlessness can be
reduced when carrying out daily living activity.
For people with COPD who expend extra energy just
to breathe, regular exercise can improve the body's ability to utilize oxygen. Low impact
activities, such as walking, place minimum stress on the joints and are typically easier for
COPD patients to perform. If you walk on a regular basis, you will
recondition and strengthen your muscles, develop an increased sense of well-being and become
more self-sufficient. Breathing at rest or during activity will become easier, and you will
increase your exercise tolerance.
The following details the benefits of a regular
walking or physical activity programme
Most of us start an exercise
program with the intention of losing weight. If you are overweight and have COPD, you have a
two-fold problem -- the extra weight tends to make it even more difficult than normal to
breathe, which makes it much harder to exercise. Losing weight will help you improve your
breathing at rest and during activity. Successful weight loss will also reduce your risk
for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea and
times people with COPD have coexisting problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension).
According to a study published in 2000 by the British Journal of General Practice,
taking daily, brisk walks may help modestly lower blood pressure in people who have
hypertension, although doing so will not likely replace the need to take
To manage your hypertension and get the most out
of your exercise program, current guidelines suggest regular, aerobic exercise prior to, and
in conjunction with, prescribed medications. Additionally, a moderately intense exercise
program of aerobic exercise should be performed for at least 30 minutes, five or more days
Stress and Anxiety
We can all attest to having too much stress in our
lives, whether it is from the demands of our job or from that of raising a family. When we
become "stressed out", our bodies react by releasing stress chemicals,
nor-epinephrine and cortisol, into our blood. This is normal, and part of the
"fight or flight" response that is innate within us.
Cumulative effects of these chemicals, however, are dangerous, causing long-term health
effects such as high blood pressure and other diseases.
Walking can reduce stress by helping our bodies metabolize these stress
chemicals. Exercise also causes our body to releaseendorphins,whichare natural stress busters that also help relieve
Cardio-respiratory fitness refers to the ability
to be able to sustain rhythmic activity over a prolonged period of time. Aerobic activity
such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling can help improve your cardio-respiratory
fitness level by strengthening large muscle groups within your body. Although exercise does
not directly improve lung function, it can help strengthen your muscles which will help build
your endurance level. This will ultimately raise your exercise tolerance and help you to
breathe easier during activity in the long run.
COPD can make even the simplest task tough to
accomplish without becoming short of breath, so it's not difficult to understand why people
who suffer from the disease often fall prey to depression. Exercise helps fight this, as the
endorphins that are released when you are active have a wonderful calming effect on the body.
You may have heard this benefit referred to as "runner's high." This, plus the raised level
of self-esteem that can come from improving your body and feeling better, can also help
study performed by Duke University and published in the January 2001 issue
of The Journal of Aging and Physical
Activity suggested that aerobic exercise improves
cognitive functioning in older adults, particularly in the areas of memory, planning and
organization. Significant improvement was also noted in the ability of study participants to
"multi-task" or juggle a variety of intellectual tasks at the same
time.The study concluded that exercise may be able to
offset, at least in part, the decline in mental status that is often associated with
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common, and
oftentimes most disabling, of all the joint disorders. OA affects joint cartilage and the
bone that supports it. This results in degradation and inflammation of the joints that causes
pain and stiffness.Walking can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis by
strengthening the muscles that surround the joints, subsequently reducing pain and stiffness.
It also helps increase flexibility and endurance.
Trying to Quit Smoking
If you have COPD, you may be trying to quit
smoking. Walking may help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with withdrawal from
nicotine. It can also help offset weight gain that commonly occurs as a result of an
increased appetite. Walking can serve as a wonderful distraction to help you fight nicotine
cravings, and should be a part of any quit smoking