FLexercise supports Breathe Easy week – an initiative started by the British Lung Foundation to raise awareness and focus on lung health.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.
What does COPD stand for?
Chronic – a long-term condition that does not go away
Obstructive – your airways are narrowed, so it’s harder to breathe out quickly
Pulmonary – it affects your lungs
Disease – it’s a medical condition
The main cause of COPD is smoking. Even those who don’t smoke but have long-term severe asthma, can get COPD. It can be caused by long-term exposure to air pollution, fumes and dust from the environment or workplace.
What are the symptoms?
- Increasing breathlessness
- A persistent chesty cough
- Frequent chest infections
- Persistent wheezing
Living with COPD
Being diagnosed with lung disease doesn’t mean the end.
Exercise regularly can help improve your symptoms and quality of life. The amount of exercise you can do will depend on your individual circumstances. Exercising until you’re a little breathless is not dangerous, but don’t push yourself too far.
Check with your GP for advice before starting a new exercise programme if your symptoms are severe or if you have not exercised in a long while.
There are various breathing techniques that some people find helpful. Here are just a few:
Pursed lip breathing: This technique has been shown to reduce how hard you have to work to breathe. It helps release trapped air in the lungs and it promotes relaxation which helps reduce shortness of breath. Pursed-lip breathing should be practiced several times a day. In addition to strengthening the abdominal muscle, it will help regulate breathing if one becomes short of breath, particularly during an activity.
Coordinated breathing: Feeling short of breath can cause anxiety that makes you hold your breath. Coordinated breathing can prevent this from occurring.
- Inhale through your nose before beginning an exercise.
- While pursing your lips, breathe out through your mouth during the most strenuous part of an exercise. For example, when performing a bicep curl.
Deep breathing: Deep breathing prevents air from getting trapped in your lungs, which can cause you to feel short of breath. Here’s how to practice deep breathing:
- Sit or stand with your elbows slightly back. This allows your chest to expand.
- Inhale deeply through your nose.
- Hold your breath as you count to five.
- Breathe out through your nose.
Diaphragmatic breathing: The diaphragm is an important muscle involved in the work of breathing. Diaphragm or abdominal breathing helps to retrain this muscle to work more effectively.
- Sitting or lying put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Take a breath in through your nose feeling your stomach move outward.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth, pressing lightly on your stomach.
There are more than 230 Breathe Easy support groups throughout the UK to provide support, give you the opportunity to make new friends and help you learn how to live with lung disease.
There are also Singing for Lung Health groups. There’s increasing evidence that singing is especially good at improving your quality of life if you’re living with a lung condition. Singing can help reduce shortness of breath, it can increase the strength of your voice, improve your posture, increase lung capacity and help reduce the need for medication.
If you’re looking for an exercise class with a professional teacher who has experience and understanding of various health issues have a look around the FLexercise website and find a class near you or online.