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COPD

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Respiratory disease now kills more people in the UK per year than heart disease and is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths. COPD leads to 
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.

Benefits of exercise 
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

Weight Control
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 osteoarthritis.

Improves Blood Pressure
Many 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 medication.

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 each week.

Reduces 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, suchas epinephrine, 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 pain.

Improves Cardio-Respiratory Fitness
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.

Decreases Depression
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 combat depression.

Improves Cognitive Function
A 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 aging.

Improves 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.

Helps Those 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