COPD and Exercise

COPD and Exercise


COPD is a progressive lung disease that causes persistent airway obstruction. This can happen because of emphysema, or chronic bronchitis. A COPD sufferer will have a lot of difficulty in breathing and may have a chronic cough or wheezing. Other signs and symptoms include reduced lung elastic recoil and limitation in air flow; breathing will become much harder to do; the breathing muscles will become weak because of hyperinflation, which overly stresses these muscles; and other ventilation-related signs. People with COPD will have difficulty in emptying their lungs and impaired gas exchange in emphysema because of destruction of the alveolar-capillary membrane.

However, exercise can improve the use of oxygen, exercise (work) capacity, and can lower the anxiety level of COPD patients. Some of the direct benefits of exercise in this case include:

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The Role of Aerobic Exercise in the Management of Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common condition involving an obstructed airway and impaired breathing. Frequent side effects include snoring, pauses in breathing during the night, and sleepiness during the day. There is also a significant increase in hypertension, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and coronary artery disease. The consequences can be huge, and life-threatening.

Many patients with OSA are treated with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP), with good results. But exercise has an important role to play in the management of this condition.

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Lower Back Pain

 Lower Back Pain


Lower back pain, or LBP, is an extremely common problem. It has a  wide variety of causes, and may come on suddenly, or gradually. The pain can stem from muscles, joints, or discs. It may be as a result of sudden trauma, or be a repetitive motion injury.

 It may seem trivial to say that someone has LBP, but this common complaint can cause loss of work, a spike in use of health care services, depression, family strain, and lack of self-esteem. Imagine being in pain all the time - it's very draining.

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 Exercising with Angina and Silent Ischemia


The heart requires an uninterrupted, stable supply of oxygen to survive, since oxygen is virtually its only fuel. During our daily activities and exercise, the demand for myocardial oxygen varies. The heart  adjusts the coronary blood flow to meet the changing demand for oxygen. However when there is an obstruction in the coronary arteries, due to atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, or restriction in the blood flow, develops. When this condition causes pain in the chest, it is called angina.

Stable angina is usually associated with crossing the threshold of a certain level of physical exertion, or other stresses, such as emotional distress or cold temperatures. And is usually treated with rest and/or nitroglycerin.


Unstable angina is much riskier to deal with than the stable variety. There are three main hallmarks of UA:

  1. Angina experienced while at rest, or upon wakening, which lasts 20 minutes or more
  2. The first occurrence of anginal pain
  3. Increase in severity, frequency, length or change in the level of activity that brings on the pain, with already documented angina 

UA is often a warning sign of myocardial infarction – “heart attack”, and should be treated immediately with appropriate medical intervention. The severity of the coronary artery obstruction largely determines how much exercise a person can tolerate.

Exercise is generally helpful for people with stable angina. Exercise and changes in lifestyle choice, such as an improved diet, will help reduce cardiac risk.  The goal of exercise and angina sufferers is to raise their ischemic threshold, or the point during exercise at which the symptoms of angina occur. Proper medication will also help exercise performance. Most people with stable angina who exercise will realize most, if not all, of the same benefits as seemingly healthy people.  These benefits include improvements in blood pressure and heart rate, and better flow of oxygenated blood to the heart both at rest and during exertion.

Before starting on an exercise program, the person needs to determine the ischemic threshold, or the heart rate above which the symptoms of angina appear. The recommendations for exercise include:

  1. Aerobic: large muscle activities, such as walking briskly. Increase daily activities such as gardening, housework, errands, etc. Aerobic work should be done 3-7 days per week, around 20-60 minutes per session, with 5-10 minutes of a warm-up and also a cool-down. It’s important to keep the heart rate 10-15 contractions/ minute below the ischemic threshold.
  2. Circuit training is recommended for strength, to improve functional capacity. Do this 2-3 days/week, for 15-20 minutes per session, and your effort should be light resistance.
  3. Flexibility: stretching. Do upper and lower Range of Motion (ROM) activities, 2-3 days per week. This will improve your flexibility and reduce the chance of injury during exercise and activities of daily life.

Deb Bailey Personal Trainer - in Home (Now On-line!)
Phone: 519-572-0986
Kitchener, Ontario

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