4 reasons I benefited from changing up my exercise routine with COPD
How a columnist is maintaining the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation
When I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2013, my first emotion was relief. I had a diagnosis; the feeling that I was slowly deteriorating was not just in my head.
I did what I always do and began researching. While studying the disease, I discovered that pulmonary rehabilitation could help me regain strength and stamina. My pulmonologist referred me to a program in the area, but it was already full, so I didn’t get to attend.
My general practitioner gave me the assignment to search the COPD Foundation website to get ideas about exercises that might be best for me. That nonprofit turned out to be an excellent resource, offering information about nutrition, exercise, and inhaler use while connecting me with other COPD patients.
I began an exercise routine, which helped me feel much better. I then was enrolled in a clinical trial to establish the feasibility of a virtual pulmonary rehabilitation program. I attended sessions twice a week for 12 weeks and followed the directions to exercise on my own.
After doing the same set of exercises for a few years, I noticed that they weren’t making me feel as conditioned as they once did. That’s when I realized I needed to change up my exercise routine to maintain the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation.
Based on my research and background in health, corrective and adaptive physical education, and biology, I’ve determined that there are several reasons why a variety of exercises can be beneficial for those of us with COPD.
The body becomes incredibly good at what’s expected of it
As my friend and Pulmonary Wellness Foundation founder, Dr. Noah Greenspan, often tells me, the body is very good at doing what we expect it to do.
With this knowledge in mind, I decided to evaluate my actual fitness. Woah! I could go through my usual seven-minute exercise routine without breaking a sweat, but I struggled to get through the new routine that I’d selected. My body had gotten good at doing what was expected of it, but overall, I wasn’t that fit.
Different accessory muscles are required for various exercises
Changing up our exercise routine allows us to work a different set of accessory muscles. I could do more than 20 abdominal crunches during my favorite high-intensity interval training routine. But when I tried the “superman,” another core-strength exercise, it wasn’t so easy.
At this point, I enlisted the aid of my Fitbit Premium subscription to find some intermediate exercises that would challenge me. I thought that the intermediate level would be challenging, but not too difficult.
Strengthening various accessory muscles is particularly important for COPD patients, who often become experts at using these muscles to enhance their breathing.
Before my diagnosis, I seldom experienced shortness of breath because I learned how to use my accessory muscles to mask my breathing issues. I used to have to stop and pretend to look at something when my friend and I would go out for our evening walks. She’d been an English major while I’d majored in health and physical education. How could I let her know that she was fitter than me?
I knew at this time that something was very wrong with my breathing, but I thought it was part of aging and didn’t want to seem old and out of breath.
Reduce the possibility of boredom
We need to stave off boredom when doing an exercise routine because it can lead to bad form, or not doing the exercise at all. One possible reason my routine wasn’t giving me maximum benefits was because I was only half doing each exercise.
Maintain the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation
Lastly, we must strive to maintain the benefits of a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Although many studies have cited the benefits of exercise for people with COPD, many patients resist enrolling in rehab programs or are unable to complete them for various reasons.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation include the following:
- Reduced COPD symptoms
- Increased physical activity
- Improved daily life functions
- Improved emotional health
The most important thing to remember is that we must keep on keepin’ on.
Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.