you’ve been diagnosed with COPD.
Whilst being a life changing diagnosis, it’s important to understand that there are a number of things you can do to make managing the condition easier and more successful.
It’s common for those with COPD to become progressively more breathless with exercise, which means they tend to avoid it. Their muscles then become weaker and their shortness of breath then becomes worse when moving around. There is often a vicious cycle of inactivity, decreased strength and fitness and increased shortness of breath. And because the breathlessness can cause anxiety and discomfort, the natural reaction is to avoid physical activity altogether.
Exercising regularly increases the strength of all your muscles, including the ones you engage to breathe. This means they need less oxygen to do the same amount of work. Weaker muscles need more oxygen to work. To break this vicious cycle of inactivity you need to take on regular exercise, and the best way to learn how to exercise with the specifics of COPD in mind, is to attend a pulmonary rehab class.
What is a pulmonary rehab class?
Pulmonary rehab is a programme specifically designed to provide you with information about COPD and the specific exercises you can do to help improve your symptoms.
It will give you the tools you need to be able to control your symptoms and improve your lifestyle, all within the context of your own individual ability. You will learn how to manage symptoms of breathlessness by a combination of breathing control, methods for coping and exercise. This in turn should help you feel less anxious about your breathing and help you know realistically what activity you can do within the constraints of your condition.
What can you expect at a class?
You’ll be supported by a pulmonary physiotherapist who will support you with a programme of exercises which aim to improve your flexibility, strength and fitness. This will be carefully managed, starting with a warm up, working through exercises to increase your strength and fitness (these may include leg and arm exercises, walking on a treadmill or using a static bike), and a cool down with stretches at the end. You’ll also be given similar exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
You’ll learn breathing control techniques and how to pace yourself to get the very best out of the sessions.
There will also be a whole host of information and advice provided on how to live with your condition day to day.
What should you bring to the class?
It’s best to wear loose fitting clothes and comfortable trainers to the class so you can move around easily, and bring a bottle of water so you can keep hydrated.
Remember to bring your reliever inhaler with you, if you have one, and any other medications you may be taking (such as a GTN angina spray). If you use portable oxygen or a walking aid then make sure you bring them with you too.
Why pulmonary rehab is so important if you have COPD
There are countless benefits to attending a pulmonary rehab class. The key point to remember is that the exercises in the class will be tailored to you, so will meet your own goals when it comes to fitness and ability. It’s all about improving your lifestyle to manage your COPD better.
Here’s why you should make pulmonary rehab part of your routine:
  • Maintain your independence – by learning how to become more active with the right exercises, you’ll be able to feel more confident at taking control of your activity yourself.
  • Improve your quality of life – simple tasks like climbing the stairs and walking around the shops become more manageable, all of which helps you feel more like your old self before you had COPD.
  • Manage your reactions to symptoms  – once you learn how to control your breathing and practice your breathing techniques, you’ll be less likely to panic when you feel breathless. It’s about controlling your breathlessness, and not allowing it to control you.
  • Meet other people with the same condition – meeting other people provides an excellent opportunity to discuss your experiences, share ideas and get ongoing support. It’s a great way to feel less isolated and make new social contacts.
  • Get practical advice – there are loads of helpful suggestions that both your pulmonary physiotherapist and class members will be able to share with you. Advice on things like your diet, how to use your inhalers and what to do if you feel unwell will all help you to become more confident.
We offer individualised pulmonary rehabilitation sessions at Air Physiotherapy so get in touch to enquire or book your first session!