Living with COPD might be challenging, as the damage to your lungs can cause shortness of breath and discomfort. Although it might be hard to breathe sometimes with COPD, that doesn’t mean you should quit being active.
There are many benefits to being active when you have COPD. Exercise might seem like a big challenge, but there are ways to be active with COPD while not overdoing it and getting exhausted. One form of exercise that isn’t too demanding is walking. If you have COPD, walking can allow you to be active, while also being delicate on your lungs.
Here are five benefits of walking for those with COPD:
It can improve the overall health
Did you know that a little bit of exercise can increase your overall health, not just decrease your COPD symptoms? Dr. Holland, a pulmonologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, said:
"Physical activity is important, as with all diseases, to improving health and quality of life. People used to think that if you have COPD, you shouldn't be physically active. This reinforces that you should”.
You could lose weight
Those with COPD should know the risks of being overweight, as additional pounds could worsen COPD symptoms. Being overweight could, also, make one less interested in exercise, which could make worsen overall health and outlook. Walking is a light exercise that can still help you burn calories which could decrease symptoms. If you’re going to start a walking program to lose weight while having COPD, the Cleveland Clinic offers some advice:
“Start with a short walk. See how far you can go before you become breathless. Stop and rest whenever you are short of breath."
You might have fewer hospitalizations
Another benefit of walking for those with COPD is the fact that you might have fewer hospitalizations. Dr. Cristobal Esteban said, "Patients who maintained the moderate or high level of exercise — which in most cases equated to a walking regimen — were hospitalized only 53 percent as often as those who didn't walk regularly." How much should you walk to decrease hospitalization? Data shows that 60 minutes per day, or 500 steps, could decrease your hospitalization risk by around 50%.
It can support your immune system.
Since the immune system can suffer when you have COPD, it’s important to consider how to improve it. Walking is a great way to support your overall health, your lungs, and your immune system. Specifically, walking outside can bolster the immune system.
Your lungs can get stronger
One concern for those living with COPD is the strength of their lungs. Besides supporting your immune system, walking outside can help your lungs get stronger: “According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, regular, brisk 30-minute walks increase lung capacity. This also strengthens the lungs. With increased lung capacity, you will breathe easier, and your lungs will stay healthier longer.".
Although walking might seem like a simple way of getting exercise, this activity can decrease COPD symptoms and build lung strength. However, someone with COPD should be careful when starting a walking regimen. Before a walk, consider stretching: "Stretching the arms and legs before and after exercising helps prepare the muscles for activity and helps prevent injury and muscle strain." You should also consult with your doctor to ensure walking is a safe activity for your health goals.