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Home Exercise Equipment for COPD

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Dear Coach,
I am thinking about getting a treadmill and exercise bike to use for home exercising. What should I look for?

—Shoes Are Made for Walking

Dear Shoes,
I’m glad you asked! There’s a wide range of features, as well as poor to excellent quality, to be found in exercise equipment, and there are definitely special considerations when you have COPD. It’s tempting to shop at a garage sale or thrift store for inexpensive equipment, but before you go, you should know what to look for – and what to avoid. Here are some tips to consider before you shop for a treadmill or bike to use at home.

Treadmill:

Exercise

  • Make sure your treadmill is motorized. If you have COPD, it’s simply too much work to use a treadmill that requires you to push the belt yourself.
  • Get a treadmill that goes slowly enough. Remember, when you have COPD, exercise is not about speed, but endurance. In other words, you don’t have to go fast to get a lot of benefit. If your treadmill can go as slow as 0.6 MPH, that’s great. If not, a TM that goes as slow as 0.8 MPH will give most people with severe COPD a nice warm-up and plenty of room to go faster.
  • Make sure your treadmill will run at a flat level, with no grade (uphill). It’s good to have the option of adjusting the grade at a slight incline if you’re able. Try to get a treadmill with a padded walking surface; this makes a big difference in the comfort of your feet and how tired you become.
  • Choose a treadmill with an emergency shut off. This way if you were to trip and fall, the treadmill would automatically shut off, giving you a chance to get up and dust yourself off f from a surface that’s not moving.
  • Look for equipment with side bars for balance, in addition to a support bar out in front of you.
  • Position your treadmill so you can look out a window with an interesting view, watch television or listen to music with a good beat. Reading and eating while on the treadmill are not recommended! Looking up and looking around while maintaining a firm (not tight) grip on the rails will help you keep your balance. Safety first!

Exercise Bicycles:

There are three main types of exercise bikes.

  • Stationary bike – With this type of bike your legs pedal, but your arms do not move. You set the resistance.
  • Air resistance – This is a bike that you pedal with your legs, but your arms move as well, making this a more demanding exercise. Instead of a setting for resistance, the resistance comes from air being pulled into the bike. The front of the bike looks like a big electric fan.
  • Recumbent bike – This type of exercise bike allows you to sit back, with your back supported. The pedals are in front of you, rather than under you. For some people this type of exercise is easier and less stress on the knees and back.

Bike tips:

Choose a bike that allows you to adjust the resistance from almost nothing, up to something that challenges you. Find a bike that’s easy to get on and off of safely.

Thanks for writing,
COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

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  • Since I am only 5' I had a big problem finding a bike that I felt safe getting on. This is a great tip.
    Reply

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