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British Lung Foundation
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how do I exercise with COPD, CFS and heart problems?

Hi all,

Im moderate COPD ex smoker, and know I need to exercise and do try to, but If I do more than the very basics of life, I get a flare of CFS, if I am exercising to point of breathlessness heart races and can go into AF. I also get the fatigue from CFS kicking in and Im unable to build up to increasing. Tried many times over the years.

When cfs settled I can do a few mins walking on rebounder, and 15 mins on my ijoyride, and light home care, but when its acting up I cant do anything at all other than sit around and-or lay down. I also have osteoporosis, arthritis and several other things happening.

At the moment, my small elderly dog has a broken jaw and I have to cook and cut up and hand feed everything to her, because it has a wire screwed to the outside and goes under the tongue, also has a bumper bar under the chin with the big buster collar to protect it all. I live alone and it will take around 6 weeks to heal and get the thing removed, and less than a week in Im spending time in bed when not dealing with the dog or basic care for myself. How on earth do I do exercise like this?

If any of you have experience similarly and found a solution, please let me know


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21 Replies

In my view, you would be prudent to ask your COPD nurse for a referral to their physio. I have multiple health issues and find exercise difficult. I did the above and a Pulmonary physio has made home visits to help my work out a suitable routine that doesn't compromise my other issues.

Regards Rib

I don't have a COPD nurse. I had to buy a COPD screener and use that to get diagnosed. Took lots of readings to Drs for evidence. He had a similar screener on his desk and I had one puff into that, and presto, diagnosed. Told me nothing. I learned things on here and online. Worked out my stage and asked him if I was right, and he said I was down as moderate so yes. Asked if Id be called in for checks and he said yes. That's it. I mentioned PR but only to say I didn't think I was bad enough for that yet Assumed you have it in late stage at that point. I also asked if a physio could teach me diaphragmatic breathing and he said all breathing is a mix of that and chest breathing for everyone, so didn't get that either. Still, at least it got me Spiriva which helps.


Hi the secret is not to over exercise and do several small stints a day rather than one big one. You should only exercise to the point of being not too breathless to hold a conversation but too breathless to sing. This is the Borg scale of exercising. Google it and have a gander. You want to aim for borg4.

Have you taken part in a PR group yet (pulmunory Rehablitation?). If not ask your doctor to refer you. You will learn how to exercise to help your copd there. x


Im off to look up borg now. PR etc is explained in reply to Rib.

thanks for the info


hi carole, having an illness is often made harder living on your own, i know that myself !! but there are many avenues you can take, as rib, and coughalot says ask a g.p or copd nurse for referral either for physio, or pr course,

through the red cross, i have had a lot of help, they have many volunteers for many different things, including help with pets. they can direct you in many ways.

i am at the moment doing this" health lifestyle course" [which i was directed too, by the red cross ],,,which consists of learning, relaxation and light exercise that suit the individual,

having pets, as i have too, can often add to your burden, we love them so much, and feel useless or helpless and worry so much about them ,when they are ill or when we find it difficult to look after them. and can off course make us worse.

your best bet is to explain all to your g,p,, even the social services can help,,,,but theres always a way carrole,, even looking through past posts on this site can often give you an answer.

i can understand your worry and concern,, but there is always a solution,, all the very best carrole kindest thoughts jimmy xxx

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Thanks Jimmy,

I am seeking solutions. Tried Social Services to see if I could get my floors hovered and mopped but was told they dont offer home care help now, but only help with personal care like bathing and dressing, and I can do that so didn't qualify. I usually find ways around things, which is what I looking to do now. With the advice given here Im already looking at different options again, so thankyou to all.


Hi, I worry about about not being able to excercise enough with other health problems too, so i know where your coming from.

Your docter sounds truly awful. I'd be finding myself a better one at the practice if l were you.

Theres only two and the he is the best.


Another surgery Carole? If he is the best the other must be dreadful, x

Hi Carol,

Your situation sounds frustrating & difficult and made extra hard as you live alone. Rib has given excellent advice. Your dr is a shocker surely you can find another? Between diagnosing yourself and being unhelpful is utterly disgraceful. With your heart problems you would be under the care of a cardiologist? That is the person you need to advise you on the level of exercise you should attempt. I hope your precious little dog is coping ok with the broken jaw and Im sure he appreciates your loving care. Hugs Suz xx


As Suz has said if you can't get the help via a COPD consultant then talk with your cardiac consultant instead ask for the physio guidance for suitable exercise.

I did take your OP to mean that you wanted general exercise advise not just for your lungs. If you did mean just lung health then BLF may well have a simple Breathing Cycle leaflet. A search here could also be worthwhile. Rib

PS. diaphragmatic breathing is just a fancy name for taking a deep breath in through the nose inflating the lungs fully so that the diaphragm under your ribs pushes your tummy out. Then slowly letting the air slowly back out through the mouth to empty the lungs. HTH

Hi I also had physio at home , just gentle excercise but it helped I also have lots of health problems and I managed , the physiotherapist won't let you do anything you can't manage

Take care


Hi lloegr

I was wondering if you are claiming all the financial benefits that you may be entitled to, like Attendance Allowance...the Citizens Advice could help you there...and then you could pay for a cleaner.

I would go back to your gp armed with the knowledge that you have gained on this site and see what help with an exercise programme he can give you.

The Red Cross volunteers have contacted my elderly mother with offers of a befriending service, visits out etc.

Good luck feeding your poorly dog, I had a cat with a broken jaw once and had to hand feed it soft food, drinking was a problem so I used a syringe to squeeze water in his mouth.

Have you rung the BLF helpline for advice too(about your health...not the dog...sorry!)

Take care and keep reading and posting

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Thankyou everybody for the input, theres good ideas all round. I see my cardiologist next week to discuss heart options, and will tell him Ive got COPD and ask advice then. Will continue looking through the site and posts for additional info. One thing I haven't yet come across is, can COPD discomfort, pain and tightness be felt in the back lung areas rather than chest?. Maybe mine isn't COPD related but something else. Trying to figure it out. Maybe I should make that a different post

Many thanks


Get the BLF information sheet on chair based exercise. The idea is not to beat yourself up with exercise at any time. You do it until you reach a certain level of breathlessness and then stop and recover before moving on to something different. A very limited amount of exercise is essential when you have a flare up as it is the only way you are going to shift the bug completely. Bed is the worse possible place to be. You become immobile, don't drink enough fluids and every time you sneeze or cough, the bugs settle on your bed clothes, ready to re-infect. Bed is also a bad idea for your sleep pattern. You will cat nap and doze during the day and then sleep at night becomes impossible. I know it's easy to say that you had 15 hours sleep at night so you must have needed it but the reality is once your sleep pattern is destroyed, you will take weeks to re-establish a decent one. Get up, have a wash, get comfy in a chair and space your daily needs out. If you go to make a drink, while you are there, do something towards your next meal, even if it is only spreading bread with butter for a later sandwich. Used tissues should go into a bin with a lid on it straight away and you need to use sanitizer on your hands and anything you touch. Your inhalers and Spiriva too, need de- bugging. Use sanitizer on your Spiriva dispenser but I always try to keep a spare dispenser and inhaler outer. That way, I can pour boiling water over then to get everywhere and then let them air dry....infection control is so important.

Phone around your friends. See if one of them can pop in and prepare doggies dinner for you...you will have a bit of company then too.

Sorry if you feel that I have been harsh on you, it's just that having been down that road and learnt a better way of dealing with flare ups and infections, I need to pass it on. Exercise will come in time using the BLF leaflets and also their breathing techniques leaflets. In the mean time you have to stop sliding back down the slippery slope and hold on to the position you are at now....then it's less work to fight back.

Good luck and please, give it a go. You can always message me for a bit of support. Brian.

Thanks Brian, needed that. I tend to get focused onto one thing that's needed instead of whole picture, so your post is a great reminder. Appreciated and duly noted.


So sorry for all you are having to deal with at present and hope your consultant will help you. I have heard other people being told that pr is only for people with severe conditions but when I did the course in the summer (having waited eighteen months for it) the respiratory physio said that they wished that people would be referred earlier so that they could get as fit as possible and be able to hold back deterioration.

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MMMM. Hadnt thought of it like that, will ask about that now. Thankyou.


Hi Carole, sorry to hear of your health worries and the effect it's having on you. I have a number of medical conditions also and two of these are asthma/copd and M.E. I'm very aware of this condition and the effect that CFS has on the body.

As a suggestion regarding help around the home...I'd forget Social services. I went through Age UK agency within the area (or rather the district nurse did) and someone came out to do an assessment. Found them to be very helpful in all areas and as requested i was allocated some cleaning help at a reasonable cost. All the best to you and also your little dog xxx

thanks lovelight, appreciate the info.


Any chance you could get a place on a Pulmonary Rehab course through your Doctor? There you would have the answers you need.

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