Improving COPD Symptoms through Simple Practices
In the latest approaches to treating COPD, medical practitioners and patients are finding success in exploring simpler solutions, such as exercise, breathing strategies and techniques, and counseling. Research shows that these approaches target many underlying causes of COPD and can not only reduce symptoms but improve lung capacity and quality of life for COPD patients.
Building the Respiratory System
COPD directly impacts a person’s ability to absorb oxygen in the lungs, making breathing – and nearly all other activity – difficult and laborious. A fitness program improves the body’s lung capacity and ability to absorb oxygen efficiently. It can also reduce weight and blood pressure, reducing challenging COPD symptoms and improving overall health.
While anyone with COPD, or any concerns about his or her health, should consult a physician before beginning an fitness program, there are many simple, at-home activities that anyone can do in just a few minutes a day to improve their fitness level.
Stretching: Stretching increases flexibility and core strength. Even though stretching does not place the same type of load on the cardiovascular system as other types of exercise, it does increase agility, making movement easier for all body types. Beginners should aim for stretching all the major muscle groups twice weekly.
Aerobic Activity: This includes walking or jogging, biking, swimming, stair stepping and a variety of activities to wide to name. Any activity that get the heart rate up is likely a great cardiovascular activity. Those with previous injuries should look for activities that are low impact (such as swimming, biking, or walking). Walking and biking are two excellent activities for patients suffering from COPD. The regular practice of aerobic activity teaches the body to use oxygen more efficiently, decreasing many of COPD’s most dangerous symptoms.
Strength-Building: Improving upper body strength can actually increase the strength of the muscles used to breathe, and this improves overall breathing efficiency. However, COPD patients are discouraged from pushups or other isometric strength exercises of that nature. Consult a doctor about how to safely build upper body strength.
Improved Breathing Strategies
Doctors have identified several specific breathing techniques that assist in developing lung capacity and improving COPD symptoms. Beginners should aim to practice these techniques for 5-10 minutes several times throughout the day.
Pursed Lip Breathing: Begin by breathing in for a two-count, then exhaling through pursed lips, making the exhale about twice as long as the inhale.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: While laying on your back with knees bent, place one hand on your stomach and one one your chest. Inhale for a count of three, then exhale for a count of six. While breathing, you should notice your stomach and lower rib cage rise while you breathe in, and you should tighten your stomach muscles slightly as you breathe out.
Managing Symptoms with Counseling
As an additional treatment component, many COPD patients have found professional therapists to be very effective both in assisting them in the above treatments and helping them manage anxiety and other emotions that frequently arise in people suffering from COPD. Frequently, breathing problems of any sort will trigger an anxiety response in the brain. This reduces efficient oxygen absorption and makes breathing even more difficult, exacerbating the problem.
Counseling can provide a variety of techniques to help manage this anxiety. Further, many counselors can connect with doctors and other members of the treatment team and help patients cope with various aspects of their treatment.
COPD is a challenging, exhausting illness, but as doctors and patients persist with physical fitness, breathing strategies, and therapy they are finding a higher quality of life and better symptom management.