British Lung Foundation
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Need further evidence of the need to exercise!


One of the biggest problems in Australia today is lack of activity. We know it's good for us but avoid it like the plague either because we're used to being sedentary or afraid that exercise has to be vigorous to be worth our time. The truth is, movement is movement and the more you do, the healthier you'll be. Even moderate activities like chores, gardening and walking can make a difference.

This can be especially true for people living with Lung Disease. The amount of air you need to breathe in depends on how active you are. When you are sitting down you only take in about 15 breaths a minute, giving you around 12 litres of air. From this your lungs will extract just one fifth of a litre of oxygen.

Through exercise – even moderate - you can train your body so that more oxygen is delivered to your muscles.

Unfortunately, many people with long-term lung problems are afraid to exercise. This is partly because they are worried that being breathless may be harming them. This isn't true. By gradually building up the exercise you take, you can help to improve your breathing and feel better.

People with severe lung problems benefit a lot from even small amounts of exercise, so it really is worth keeping as active as possible.

What happens when you exercise?

As you start to move about, the muscles in your body send messages to your brain that they need more oxygen. Your brain then sends signals to the muscles that control breathing - your diaphragm and the muscles between your ribs - so that they shorten and relax more often. This causes you to take more breaths.

More oxygen will be absorbed from your lungs and carried to the muscles you are using to exercise - mainly your arms and legs.

Why do muscles need more oxygen?

For you to become more active your muscles will need to produce more energy. They do this by breaking down glucose from your food, but to do this they need oxygen. If there is too little oxygen they will try to produce energy in a different way. But this can lead to a build-up of a chemical called lactic acid, which causes cramp - something that many athletes are all too familiar with.

Athletes train so that their lungs and muscles become more efficient and it takes longer for lactic acid to build up. This means that their muscles can work harder. In fact, everyone can benefit from exercise to strengthen their lungs and muscles.

What happens when your lungs don't work properly

People with long-term lung problems such as COPD may find their lungs unable to provide enough oxygen for their muscles to perform even simple activities. When walking short distances their lungs may struggle to keep up, causing breathlessness.

Physical training

Through exercise you can train your body so that more oxygen is delivered to your muscles.

Unfortunately, many people with long-term lung problems are afraid to exercise. This is partly because they are worried that being breathless may be harming them. This isn't true. By gradually building up the exercise you take, you can help to improve your breathing and feel better.

People with severe lung problems benefit a lot from even small amounts of exercise, so it really is worth keeping as active as possible.

Begin slowly by doing arm and leg movements while you are sitting down. Then set yourself targets for walking about: from room to room, going to the front door, the bottom of the garden, down the road and so on. It's surprising how quickly you'll be able to do more.

Some easy exercise tips

Turn off the TV. Once a week, turn off the TV and do something a little more physical with your family. Play games, take a walk...almost anything will be more active than sitting on the couch.

Walk more. Look for small ways to walk more. When you get the mail, take a walk around the street, take the dog for an extra outing each day or try walking around your home for 5 minutes at a time.

Do some chores. Working in the garden, raking leaves, sweeping the floor...these kinds of activities may not be 'vigorous' exercise, but they can keep you moving while getting your house in order.

Pace while you talk. When you're on the phone, pace around or even do some cleaning while gabbing. This is a great way to stay moving while doing something you enjoy.

Be aware. Make a list of all the physical activities you do on a typical day. If you find that the bulk of your time is spent sitting, make another list of all the ways you could move more - getting up each hour to stretch or walk a short distance, etc.

University of Western Australia

22 Replies

Excellent post :)

Lynne xx


Thank you Martin.

As i,ve stated in one of my "posts" since I started exercising,I feel much better & able to cope with the C.O.P.D. better too.I highly recommend it :)


Yes I agree exercising as helped me I have more energy x


Great post, we really should all KNOW this already, if you don't know it, then your health professional; has not been doing their job! I learned at Pulmonary Rehabilitation that is is OK to get breathless when exercising - even those with healthy lungs do that. The PR exercises were wonderful, if you haven't been on a course then nag, nag, nag to get on one. You'll be amazed at how much you can do. Everyone on my course left being able to do much more than when they started, and with a greater understanding of their lung condition. Some of the people on the course could hardly walk because of their breathing, many were on oxygen, carried it round with them, some had walking aids. Made me feel a real fraud! I still stop to catch my breath when out walking, but not as often as I used to. I feel that understanding the need for exercise - for all the reasons mentioned in Martin's excellent post, can help us all take more control of our disease.


Great post Martin, thank you. And it is not only in Oz that people don't exercise as much as they should do. A recent report here in UK showed that only 25% of healthy people in a piece of research only walked 9 minutes a day, shocking eh?

And I suspect that this is the case across the 'developed' world.

So why is it so difficult to get folk, either with lung disease or not to exercise? Perhaps simply because it is easier not to? Easier to sit, moan, feel less well, rather than get on our feet and move! I am not sure it is because we are scared, I think it is because we are lazy! After all who can't do simple exercises, eg ankle and wrist rotations ?

When I take the appropriate exercise, then without fail my life is better, the endorphins are flooding in, my ability to use oxygen is improved, and life is good! Yay!

If we knew how to succeed in motivating people to take exercise then I reckon we would be millionaires. Hahaaaa. Though I don't need to be a millionaire, as some one with COPD I just need to as fit and healthy as I can be.

Carpe Diem eh?


Good post and well written article. Just emphasising what we should already know and do. Thank-you.


I need reminding occasionally the importance of exercise so this was a good post for me.

Lib x


Thank you for that, very inspirational.


I second what everyone else has said. Regardless of what we may already know it's still good to have timely reminders to get us off the couch a bit more. Me anyway! Thank you.




Thank you for this post, I've felt really depressed and this made me feel better.

Up until a month ago I had been continuing my exercises I learnt from PR in December and felt great, then I got a chest infection which cleared quite quickly with the AB's but I was left feeling very weak, I didn't exercise and felt guilty, then felt really depressed.

I've just started to exercise again but I've halved the time until I feel stronger.

Thank you again

Kim xxxxx


Jo the physio due later today it does make a difference, just have to persevere.

Good post.



A great post. Just to add, exercise is also good for the mind as it makes you feel better in general, even if you can only do a small amount of exercise and I'd say regularity is also a key thing. eg; do a routine every other day but stick to it like clockwork if you can and keep a record so you can see what you've done and reward yourself at the end of each week!!

As has been said many times, the BLF produce excellent resources for exercising and COPD.

Wishing all a good day :)


Times have changed I think for Australia, if the article is recent that is, over 30 years ago living in Australia the focus was very sport orientated. A bonus was most companies would have a sports day annually, all employees to take part in and enjoy and notoriously included a BBQ on the beach. Ahhhh those were the days.

A good article martin, exercise is very important to help stop deterioration in health and its true every little (or larger) effort helps.

Exercise for lung folk is something we need to keep up on a regular basis if we want to help ourselves avoid rapid deterioration in health, mobility, breathing etc. Its a slow process getting back to anywhere near normal once you let it slide, but thankfully not impossible.

Keep up the good work all.


Once again.Excercises ,exercises I must do my exercises




Thank you Martin you have given me a wake up call that I sorely need. I will now leave my comfortable recliner and do some moving. I hope everyone has a peaceful day. Mavex


This is very true if i don't do some exercise i feel worse the mucus comes up better when i exercise so if there is someone frightened of it don't be do something i have i.p.f i get tired but it is better to do something x


i was afraid to exercise due to c.o.p.d,but with the right help i now go to the gym three times a week. my life has changed so much i am now a new woman, so get the help and go for it you will be rewarded.


Excellent post Martin, SO SO TRUE , I learnt about COPD last year and am still

Learning. Have been through PR and I exercise for 45 minutes 4 days a week. when I don't

Exercise I will walk ( to my local pub or go into London ) or help my wife with the house or garden. I am no longer worried about getting breathless when exercising as wIth breathing techniques learnt in PR I feel confident that I can now control it. Once again this is one of the best blogs I have read on here. By the way I lived in Sydney in 1982/3 and people seemed

Fitter than in the UK. Regards Adrian


Thank you - although I am new to all this I did know I needed to exercise but did not understand the mechanics of it - the why? - so thank you for explaining - I like to know, like most people, why I am doing something, and now I do.


I have a hobby that drives me out of the house whenever the weather permits.

Photography. I take at least one photograph a day, of as many different subjects as possible.

Whenever I don't feel like doing it, I do it anyway.

Check the results out here.

I've been doing for three years now, no matter what my circumstances.


That was very interesting, Martin, read it with interest.

I have done all sorts of exercise but no lasting effects. I am ancient. I walked around the suoermarket with difficulty. My legs below the knees were really bursting and felt bad, relieved by sitting down. I have had tests for circulation. I have never understood my legs but I dont give in. Just put it down to old age. Our bodies wont last for ever. Law of nature saysthey have a use by date.


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