British Lung Foundation
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How low is safe for oxygen levels when exercising?

Hi, Ive been stage 4 copd for almost 3 years and keep myself active although in doing so I lose my breath a lot and my oxygen level goes down to about 70. Is this safe because I thought that having continuous low oxygen levels was detrimental to other organs in the body. My resting oxygen level is around 90 to 94.

5 Replies

It can vary depending on personal circumstances but generally 88% is the lowest recommended without supplementary oxygen. For some people this figure can go lower if recovery is quick or if their CO2 levels are too high to use a higher oxygen flow. That's why it is always best to consult your oxygen/respiratory nurse. 70 sounds too low to me though. Why not call the BLF helpline tomorrow and speak to one of the specialist nurses? The number is 03000 030 555 and they are there during office hours.


Many thanks mrsmummy I think you are confirming what Ive thought myself.


Once again mrs mummy has beaten me to it with sound advice moonsong.The obvious answer is no its not safe,but without knowing if you are on LTOR or have access to ambulatory O2,if you are measuring your sats on air or o2,how long they are low and how quickly they return to safe levels of min 88/92% sop2 dependant on the severity of your copd and or if you are a co2 retainer amongst many other factors you need to be speaking to your respitory support team(if you have one and can find them).Good luck you sound like you are a pretty determined kind of person in keeping yourself active.


Many thanks also skischool. I will get in touch with my copd nurse.

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Good morning, Moonsong

I am on oxygen 24/7. As a kind of continuation of what I had to do on a PR course, I use oxygen during my exercise regime. Also, after a thorough pulmonary check at the Royal Brompton, I was released with instructions which basically said I should use 3, 5 and 8 l/minute when inactive, active (walking around, etc) and exercising. My sats drop during the exercises and I pant, but I rest between the exercises until my sats are back to the 90s (still on the 8 l/minute) , then start on the next one. At the end of the whole work out, I check how long it takes to get back to normal. When I started, I would record my final sats after 5 minutes, then I found that I was feeling pretty good after 4 minutes. Now I am measuring after 3 minutes, because I feel normal. I put the improvement down to the better weather in the Spring and early Summer, which makes it easier to breath as it's less humid, but also of course to the regular exercises.

It's a pity that I have to credit exercising as I have never enjoyed doing them, even when I was young and into various sports. I keep a log/excel table of sats, times and numbers of repeat exercises, so I can see improvements and I think that this is the motivator to keep it up. Also, I get a guilty feeling if I am talking myself into giving it a rest today, but a very good feeling when it's finished!

Check with your respiratory nurse that something similar is OK for yourself and go for it !!

Good luck.


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