Lessons from Cecil

The Importance of Exercise
and Pulmonary Rehab
This segment is devoted to the need for exercise and the importance of pulmonary rehab. We will first cover the basics of our disease and how exercise relates to being able to improve the quality and quantity of life with this illness.

The brain is programmed to function on oxygen sensors, either too much or too little. When the body reaches certain points it will react automatically beyond your control. An example, when you become short of breath the body will automatically sense this, the result will be incontinence by the kidneys and/or bowels. If this doesn't alleviate the oxygen shortage to the brain then the heart will fail. Lastly, the brain will shut down resulting in death due to oxygen deprivation.

How did we get to this point?
A good start is explaining the oxygen system within the body structure. The body automatically requires more oxygen whenever it is exerted. If you are out of shape and the muscles are weak, the oxygen flow will be depleted more quickly and the cycle starts with the oxygen shortage. Severe bouts of coughing can also be placed in this category.

How do we resolve this problem?
I know you are probably going to say that you can not exercise if you cannot breathe. However, those of us that have experienced this know that exercise is possible at any level of our illness. The first and most important step is to make up our minds to stay independent as long as possible and discourage our caretakers from waiting on us too much.

Keep in mind, however, that every exercise program needs to be discussed with your physician and adapted to incorporate his/her recommendations so that you don't overdo it.

"If you can still move you can exercise."
You do not have to start with an organized program nor even set a specific goal. It can start by just putting one foot in front of the other and starting to move.The key is to do this on a daily basis and monitor your progress with records to give motivation. If you can walk ten steps one day before becoming severely SOB then walk ten the next until you can do it without straining. Then step up to 15. You will be surprised how easy this can be done with the proper motivation.

After you start to feel comfortable with moving around and staying out of the bed or recliner then either set up your own program of exercises or use those that can be found on the web sites. The best form to start with is just walking or using the treadmill if you have one. This will build up the your endurance and stamina which is what we need. We don't work for speed or strength.

You may even find that you can use weights too in your work out. A good upper body work out is one or two pound hand weights and simple exercises. These weights don't have to be bought or ordered. Below are some examples of home made weights that work well for us because of our small requirements:
1. Get two cans that weigh 1 lb each and use them for hand weights.
2. Take two bags of beans (one or two pounds) and place them in an old pair of tube socks and tie them up. These may also be used for weights on the upper
and lower body.
3. Get a 12" concrete block and place it on the floor.Then use it as a stair step to simulate walking up and down stairs.

In addition to all this we have a group at COPD-Support called "Lets Get Fit" (LGF). It is a great system for motivation and information.It is based on the group program for support in obtaining weight loss and getting into better shape. You can access it by going to our home page and clicking on "Lets Get Fit." It will give you valuable information on exercising as well as information on how to subscribe to the Group.

Pulmonary Rehab:
This is probably one of the most important programs in maintaining a good standard of living overall. It is designed to build you p physically, educate you nutritionally and support you in general in obtaining a better quality and quantity of life. This is one of the first things we need to check on when we are initially diagnosed, regardless of the level of illness. It is fair to warn you, however, that these programs are not all that common and can be hard to find. However, from experience I have found out that many insurance companies will fund cardiac rehab if you have any type heart problems. These are much more common and can be used to substitute for pulmonary rehab if it is not available. Both programs are monitored by doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists.
In summary I would have to say that exercise in any form is beneficial and can be done by just about anyone, to some degree. It is also beneficial in helping us to stay mentally alert, reduce stress, and become much more self confident. Exercise, when committed to and done properly, can be one of the major factors in saving your life.

In closing, I would like to make this statement and I in fact know it is true.
If you keep your body in the best physical shape possible you will be much more readily accepted for surgeries when needed and have a much less chance of ending up on a ventilator.

The below listed sites are a couple that I have bookmarked and can be beneficial because you can set your own pace and may be done at home with minimum requirements for any additional equipment.

How to Improve your Strength

Huff And Puff Victoria-exercises for COPD

Health Tools & Calculators

Activity Calorie Calculators

Exercises You Can Do While Sitting in a Chair

Stretching Toward Better Health - Chair Exercises