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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What exercises are best for someone who has COPD?

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    Luke Delvecchio

    Diabetes Educator, Exercise Physiologist, Nutritionist

    Specializing in the assessment and treatment of metabolism related weight disorders. View Profile

    Now with COPD, is a restrictive condition of the lungs and the airways. So for this condition, the best exercises are aerobic exercises. The goal of aerobic exercises is to increase their ability to extract oxygen from the red blood cells. COPD exercise programs involving aerobic activity should also use large muscle groups. Walking, cycling, and swimming are also advised. Now they should conduct these exercises three times a week [They may need to, if their condition is a little bit more severe, start with shorter, intermittent exercise sessions, such as 10 minutes, then have a break, and then another 5 minutes, then have a break and do another 2minutes. That's just one example. They may not be able to conduct a 30 minute session continuously.

    COPD patients should also undertake strengthening exercises. They can use their body weight, or they can use free weights, or they can use machines, such as those in gymnasiums. The goal for their strengthening programs should be to increase the number of repetitions they perform rather than the weight. Now, they're advised to use lower resistances and also concentrate on higher repetitions two to three days a week.

    Stretching is useful for COPD patients. The aim is to increase their range of motion, and they should do at least three days a week of stretching.

    Finally, neuromuscular exercises, such as balance exercises, and also diaphragmatic breathing exercises are advisable, and they should conduct these types of exercises daily. That could include aiming to stand on one leg for as long as possible, and for the diaphragmatic breathing exercises, they can conduct these lying down. The aim of these exercises is to improve the diaphragm's breathing ability.

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