How Exercise Can Improve Your COPD

Photo Credit: Ridofranz / istockphoto.com

My Starting Point

If you have COPD and are trying to find a way to improve your quality of life then read on, as I’m living proof of how you can do it.

When I was diagnosed nearly four years ago with stage IV COPD it hit me hard. My lung function was 22% and I was told I would need a double lung transplant within five years. A lot to deal with, for sure.

When I went to the transplant clinic I was told that my best chance of receiving a transplant was to stay as fit and healthy as I possibly could and to keep my weight under control. I had been pretty fit before being hit with COPD but declining lung function made it harder to train and my level of fitness dropped.

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Turning Point

I made a decision that the way forward was to become as fit as possible and to use 100% of my 22% lung function. The first step was to find a way to improve my energy levels. After much research by my wife, I undertook a course of Chinese medicine.

After a couple of months of Chinese medicine my energy levels started to improve. The Chinese doctor told me initially that he wouldn’t be able to correct my lung function but he would be able to improve my energy levels as well as my immune system.

The Hard Work Starts

Now with my energy levels improved, I was able to increase my exercise. At no stage did I become inactive before or after diagnosis, because I new if I did my health would deteriorate more. I started walking further and as I become fitter I was able to cycle short distances. I wanted to be able to return to the swimming pool as soon as possible, which I did.

Was it easy? Not at all! I puffed and wheezed all the way. Yes, I become light headed and yes, I had my dark days.

Convincing my Doctor

So what do you think my respiratory specialist said when I told him I was going to do an Ironman event? Predictably, it was something along the lines of, “You’re insane.” But I told him I needed a goal and that was it.

After some debate he agreed, on one condition: I had to undergo some more exercise stress testing to determine my level of intensity when training.

The Outcome

Eight months after being diagnosed with Stage IV COPD I completed my first Ironman event, which involves a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and a 26.2 mile run – much to the surprise of my doctors! So, I’m sure you want to know just how to exercise with COPD.

There was no magic potion, medication or secret weapon involved. There was a hard but safe training program six days a week. Reaching that goal will always be special, mainly because I proved to myself that I’m more mentally tough than I ever thought I was.

Since then I’ve completed two more Ironman events. This year I’m going to run in the New York marathon, which I’m extremely excited about.

My lung function results haven’t changed too much, varying between 22-30%, however my exercise capacity has increased significantly due to my exercise regime.

I’m not saying that all COPD patients need to do an Ironman event or run a marathon. What I am saying is that building your exercise capacity can have a huge impact on your quality of life, no matter your age or stage of COPD.

From chair exercises through to swimming , cycling or running, it doesn’t matter where you start. What matters is your desire to improve your health and wellbeing – I’m living proof!

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