Exercising with COPD

Exercising with COPD can improve breathing and reduce some of your symptoms.

Many people find joining a walking or singing group helpful. Others find physiotherapy, tai chi or yoga can help their fitness and breathing.

When you have COPD you may become less active to avoid getting breathless. This results in loss of fitness and confidence, which in turn increases your breathlessness. Breathlessness itself isn’t dangerous. It’s a normal response to exertion. Having COPD means this response can happen more quickly and is simply the lungs working harder to get more oxygen into your body.

You should exercise as much as you can, however limited that may be, twice a day. Even chair-bound people can do some arm and upper-body movements. You can improve your fitness and mobility by trying some simple exercises in the home.

Remember to ask a healthcare professional for advice before attempting any exercise.

Arm curls

You can use light weights to do this movement or even household items such as tins of food.

  1. Hold the weight at your side, palm forward and breathe in.
  2. Lift the weight toward your chest, keeping elbows down, and exhaling slowly.
  3. Slowly lower your arms back down as you breathe in.

Chest and bicep stretch

  1. Have your hands on your lap, palms facing down.
  2. Inhale, then straighten your arms and reach them as far back as you can until you feel a stretch in your chest.
  3. Exhale as you slowly lower your arms.

Other stretches

Other simple stretches that you can perform from your seat or in your home include:

Tai Chi

Tai chi is good for individuals with COPD because it helps to ease muscles and relax you. It can also be adapted for people with restricted movement.

Find out more about tai chi

Chair dancing

Not all physical activity has to be high intensity. If you have difficulty standing or are afraid of falling, chair dancing is a great way to stay active and have fun.

Chair dancing is simple and has several benefits such as:

  • improved cardiovascular fitness
  • muscle toning
  • improved coordination
  • improved mood

Chair dancing is great as a group activity as it gives you a chance to socialise and reminisce with friends to your favourite songs.

Exercising while on oxygen

If you’re on oxygen treatment, some exercises may not be suitable for you. But you can still do some exercises while on oxygen. Remember to ask a healthcare professional for advice before attempting any exercise.

You may find it helpful to use longer tubing on your oxygen tank for more freedom to move around when exercising.

When not to exercise

If you experience any of the following symptoms you should stop exercising immediately:


Last updated:
20 May 2024