Tips for Exercising With COPD

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDJune 4th, 2021
Couple walking in neighborhood

Given the many unpleasant symptoms that go along with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and fatigue—you might be tempted to skip exercising altogether. However, that’s actually one of the worst things you could do. When approached correctly, exercise can strengthen your respiratory muscles, boost your endurance, and improve your circulation, thereby easing your COPD symptoms and making daily life easier. With that in mind, here are some tips for exercising with COPD:

  • Speak with your doctor. It’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen, but especially so for individuals living with COPD. Your doctor will know the specifics of your condition, and based on that information can recommend the types of exercise you should try as well as those you should avoid. Some patients may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation—your doctor will be able to let you know if that type of program is right for you.
  • Start with walking. If you have COPD, the thought of running or even going for a short jog may be daunting. You’ll be glad to know that walking—whether you do it inside, outside, or on a treadmill—can still provide a number of cardiovascular benefits. Start by walking slowly and for a short distance, then try to gradually increase your speed and distance over time. Cycling, skating, and swimming are other great ways to build up your endurance.
  • Don’t forget strength training. Did you know that weak muscles require more oxygen than strong ones? Having weak muscles can be especially troublesome for individuals with COPD, who may already have trouble keeping their oxygen levels up. To address this problem, make it a point to incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises into your workout routine, such as weightlifting and yoga.
  • Focus on your breathing. Many people start panting as they become fatigued, but doing so prevents you from expelling all of the air within your lungs. Instead, focus on inhaling through your nose while your mouth remains closed, and then slowly exhaling through your mouth (your exhalation should take about twice as long as your inhalation). And once you’ve finished your workout, take the time to cool down before stopping completely—failing to do so can put unnecessary stress on your body.
  • Make sure you have the right equipment. If you use oxygen therapy to treat the symptoms of COPD, have no fear—you can still exercise. However, you might need to invest in some special equipment to make working out easier and safer. Ask your doctor about whether you might benefit from extra-long tubing or lightweight tanks. He or she will also be able to tell you if you should adjust your flow rate while you’re exercising.
  • Know your limits. No matter what type of exercise you’re performing, it’s important to not push yourself too hard. If you start having trouble breathing, don’t be afraid to stop what you’re doing, sit down, and rest for a few moments until you’ve caught your breath. And be sure to call 911 if you start experiencing a fast or irregular heartbeat, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, or if your shortness of breath doesn’t resolve.

In-Home Treatment for COPD Patients


Exercise isn’t the only thing you have to be careful with when you have

COPD. You also have to be cautious not to expose yourself to potentially dangerous germs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re feeling under the weather but are hesitant to leave the house for treatment, consider entrusting your care to the professionals at DispatchHealth. We bring convenient and affordable medical care straight to you, allowing you to get the treatment you need in the comfort of your own home.

Reach out to DispatchHealth today to request a visit—you can do so by phone, on our mobile app, or through our website. * Please note: For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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