Exercise can help with COPD, so I make it fun with trail hiking

Nature and moderate exercise can improve the body and mind

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by Caroline Gainer |

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Staying active can help ease the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Sometimes I find this challenging because I get tired of doing the same exercises or going to the same places to walk. I have tried to lessen the boredom by changing up my exercise routine and rotating where I walk.

A few years ago, I joined the West Virginia State Park Challenge. The challenge was to visit a different state park each Sunday and choose a trail to walk. That was a lot of fun, so I decided to take the waterfall trails challenge this year.

The first waterfall on my list is Big Branch Falls. I’ve had both scary and fond memories of the Brooks Falls, where the trail for the Big Branch Falls starts.

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A close call

Before my husband died, we had a small fiberglass boat and were fishing above the Brooks Falls with the trolling motor when we looked up to see a rolling wave of water coming toward us. They had opened the gates at the Bluestone Dam upriver, just out of sight.

When they open a gate, a siren sounds so that people know to beware of rushing water. But between the noise of the motor and the sound of the rushing water going over the falls, we didn’t hear the siren. We ended up taking an unplanned trip over the falls.

I remember grabbing an oar and frantically paddling as my husband tried to start the motor. In hindsight, both actions were ridiculous attempts to beat the rush of water coming our way. The last thing I remember before going under was that the boat seemed to stand on its end while I held on to a pole that connected my seat to the boat.

I remembered my whitewater rafting training, which told me to relax and eventually the river would spit me out. The last thing I remember thinking was that I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. The next sight I had was of my husband hanging on to our capsized boat, where I joined him. A professional fishing expedition rescued us and took us back to our vehicle.

I’m determined not to let that scary incident prevent me from hiking to Big Branch Falls. I have been back to Brooks Falls many times since the incident and find peace in the sound of the rushing water and marvel at how something so beautiful and peaceful could be so dangerous.

I think this emotion is similar to the feeling that many people have about cigarettes. How could something they enjoyed so much be so harmful and difficult to quit? Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I have ever done. (If you are thinking of quitting, here are some helpful tips.)

Water flows lightly over the side of a small dam in a creek at Little Beaver State Park in West Virginia.

Water flows over the side of the Little Beaver Creek dam at Little Beaver State Park in Raleigh County, West Virginia. (Photo by Caroline Gainer)

Since the weather has gotten warmer here, I’ve been visiting my local state parks and revisiting some of my favorite trails.

I’ve been feeling the extra weight I put on last winter. I rode my bike and did my exercises during the winter, but it isn’t as challenging as walking a state park trail. When I’m on a trail, I have to walk up an incline much of the time because there are few flat areas in West Virginia.

I hope that losing some weight will help me with my trail walking. This is the first time in my life that I have been in the overweight category, so I guess my COPD is well controlled.

I hope you enjoy the pictures from my favorite trail at Little Beaver State Park.

A woman in a pink sweater sits on a large stone next to a lake or river in a picturesque, wooded, nature scene.

Caroline rests during a recent hike on the lakefront trail at Little Beaver State Park in West Virginia. (Courtesy of Caroline Gainer)

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.