How to have an active life with asthma or COPD

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Are you worried your asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is getting in the way of your life? For someone with asthma or COPD, breathing can be a struggle. While asthma causes your airways to tighten, COPD is caused by damage to the airways and the lungs, blocking airflow and making it harder to breathe. In the U.S., COPD affects about 16 million adults, and asthma affects more than 22 million U.S. adults.  

Experiencing breathing issues can impact your everyday activities, but there are things you can do to help you have a full and active life, even with asthma or COPD.

Make exercise your friend

The benefits of exercise

You might be thinking, “I already can’t breathe, why do I want to do something designed to make me feel out of breath?” But exercise can help with your COPD or asthma symptoms. Regular exercise improves your lung capacity, the maximum amount of oxygen your lungs can use. Exercise also increases blood flow to your lungs and heart, which pumps oxygen through your body.  

Better lung capacity isn’t the only benefit of exercise. There are numerous benefits to your body and quality of life, including:

  • Improved body circulation
  • A strengthened heart and cardiovascular system  
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Decreased stress levels, tension and anxiety  
  • Higher energy levels  
  • Improved muscle tone and strength 
  • Better flexibility  
  • Better sleep  
  • Help with weight management  

Create an exercise routine

Don’t worry, you don’t have to act like you’re training for a marathon to reap the rewards of exercise. Just 20–30 minutes of light to moderate exercise 3–4 times a week can improve your quality of life. There are several ways you can get started:

Warming up

According to recent research, starting with a dynamic warmup can reduce the risk of injury and improve agility and overall speed. A dynamic warmup is a set of controlled, up-tempo movements that take your body joints through their full range of motion.  

Dynamic movements begin to stress your soft tissue, which allows muscles and tendons to move more fluidly. Doing six to eight exercises for about 15–30 seconds can help get your body moving. Activities like an easy side-to-side shuffle, hip cradle, small lunges or thoratic spine rotations can loosen up your muscles and prepare you for your exercise routine.

Aerobic or low-impact exercise

Aerobic activity can lead to a stronger heart and lungs and help you improve how your body handles oxygen. These activities include:

  • Walking 
  • Bicycling  
  • Swimming 
  • Dancing  
  • Low-impact water aerobics

You can also do exercise activities that concentrate on breathing, like Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates. If you’re having issues getting started, you can ease into it. Go down to get the mail, take a short walk around the block or put on some music and dance for a few songs. Or do some light chair aerobics to get your body moving. Any extra activity you can sprinkle in throughout the day is a great way to start.

Strength training

Experts claim that being able to use muscles in explosive bursts is part of healthy aging. That kind of building power allows you to do things like heave your groceries into the car or catch yourself when you slip. 

Doing exercises like squats or lifting your hips up while lying on the floor can help strengthen your power ability. Lifting weights, even something as small as a can of vegetables, should be the next step in improving your strength and power. Strength training, including lifting light weights, can help increase the strength of your respiratory muscles. 

Start slow and build up your exercise regime. Keep your inhaler or supplemental oxygen around if you need it.

Talk to your doctor

Check with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. They can give you the go-ahead and help you decide which activities might work best for you. They could also refer you to a respiratory therapist or a pulmonary-rehabilitation program that can recommend breathing techniques and exercises. 

Take care of yourself

Along with exercise, there are other ways you can be good to your body. Try to breathe good air, avoid dust, pollution and other common irritants. Do not smoke, and steer clear of secondhand smoke. You’ll also want to stay hydrated, water can thin excess mucus, making it easier to breathe. Try to drink 6–8 glasses of water throughout the day.   

Your mental health can also have an overall effect on your well-being. Stress can make your COPD or asthma symptoms worse. Help manage your stress with breathing exercises or meditation, plenty of sleep and connecting with others.

Make the most of resources to help you live an active life

Take advantage of resources to help you live an active life with COPD or asthma. With ilumed, you can visit your doctor every quarter with a $0 copay to stay on top of your symptoms. Your doctor can provide a treatment plan and advice on exercise and everyday habits to help you thrive.  

Plus, ilumed’s case and disease managers can help you stay on track with treatments and connect you to other resources. We also have a team that schedules appointments and rides to the doctor. Take advantage of a full team here to help you thrive. Visit ilumed for even more health resources.

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