In our education for those with COPD, we talk all the time about the importance of exercise. When you exercise you are able to reduce your level of shortness of breath by strengthening the muscle groups.1 Exercise is also great for increasing confidence and reducing stress. Essentially when you are more active and feel stronger, you feel better. However, there are some common misconceptions that can create barriers for those with COPD. I want you to feel your best so today, let’s clear those up.
Misconception #1: A good workout must be long.
There is no reason to spend hours in the gym. According to the CDC, adults should try and get some sort of moderate exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week.2 This initially can sound like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be all at once. You can break up those 30 minutes into 10 or 15-minute increments. If you aren’t used to being active start out slowly with small increments of time. Then, slowly increase your time being active as you feel stronger.
Misconception #2: You need expensive equipment to get a quality workout.
The fact is that you don’t need any equipment at all! Walking, using your body weight for strength training, or climbing stairs can get you in amazing shape. If you want to lift weights, start out using soup cans or ketchup bottles, once you’ve established a routine and are enjoying it, you can invest in small hand weights. For another idea, try resistance bands. They are typically less expensive than iron weights and can be used in a variety of ways to increase your strength.
Misconception #3: If you aren’t “feeling the burn,” it isn’t worth your time.
The old thought with exercise was, “no pain, no gain.” Frankly, that just is not true. You should not feel pain or discomfort while working out. Certainly, exerting oneself isn’t as comfortable as sitting on the couch, however, keep in mind that exercise can be enjoyable and painless. If you do feel pain with movement or while exercising, let your health care provider know.
Misconception #4: I feel short of breath moving, so I shouldn’t exercise.
Some level of breathlessness occurs with even the healthiest of people when exercising. The important thing to remember is to know how to manage it. First, exercise during the time of day that you have the most energy. Having more energy will set you up to manage your shortness of breath better. Second, if you have a short-acting bronchodilator or rescue inhaler available, you can use it before you exercise to open up your airways allowing you to breathe easier while exercising. Third, pace yourself and if you experience shortness of breath, slow down and allow your breathing to “catch up.” Lastly, if you become more breathless and feel uncomfortable, stop and rest.
Misconception #5: All exercise looks the same.
Exercise does not have to be the same for everyone. I would encourage you to check out other “nontraditional” ways of exercising. You may want to try a YouTube video like our yoga video, tracking your steps through your smartphone, or a Tai Chi class. Mixing up your activity from walking and strength training can help to challenge your muscle groups in different ways and prevent boredom from setting in with your workout.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there that can deter you from getting started. However, if you begin by starting slow and increasing as you feel stronger, you will reach your goals and build confidence along the way. What is your favorite way to get active? Share your thoughts below!
1. Fiorentino G, Esquinas AM, Annunziata A. Exercise and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1228:355-368. doi:10.1007/978-981-15-1792-1_24
2. Centers of Disease Control. How much physical activity do adults need? Physical Activity. Published June 2, 2022. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm