Many people with COPD have trouble sticking with an exercise program over the long haul. As a caregiver, your own exercise habits can have a healthy influence on your loved one with COPD. A new study showed that, when people with COPD lived with someone who was physically active, they were more likely to be active themselves.1
Caregivers can be exercise role models
This study by Dutch researchers was published online in January by the journal Chest. The participants were 125 pairs of people who lived together. One member of each pair had COPD.
Overall, study participants with COPD were more sedentary than those they lived with. That comes as no surprise. People with COPD often experience shortness of breath during physical activity, which may discourage many from exercising.
However, when those with COPD lived with someone who was physically active, they engaged in more moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity themselves. That's important, because keeping moving is great for people with COPD. In a 2017 report from the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, physical activity is recommended for helping manage COPD at every severity level. 2
Having fun spending active time together
In the study, people with COPD were less likely than their caregivers to say that they exercised due to “intrinsic regulation"—in other words, simply because they enjoyed it. The researchers note that it may be harder for people with respiratory problems to enjoy exercise. But it's certainly not impossible.
To support your loved one with COPD, help make physical activity feel more like play than work. First, be aware of the types and amounts of activity recommended by the healthcare team. Then invite your loved one for a walk, bike ride, or swim.
Helping a loved one stay active with COPD
Here are some more ways to help your loved one—and yourself—stay motivated to move:
- Make physical activity part of your home routine. Divvy up the household and yard chores. Establish an exercise habit such as going to the gym in the morning or walking your dog after dinner, and ask your loved one if he or she wants to come along.
- Help your loved one cope with physical challenges. The potential obstacles posed by having respiratory problems can be overcome. Encourage your loved one to ask for advice from the healthcare team. For example, if shortness of breath is an issue, pursed-lip breathing may help. If portable oxygen is prescribed, the oxygen flow rate may need to be adjusted during exercise. A healthcare professional can show your loved one how to do this.
- Give each other encouragement and support. For both of you, regular physical activity is good for your muscles, heart, and blood vessels. Plus, it helps ease stress, improve sleep, boost energy, and control your weight.3
- By getting regular physical activity, you're taking care of your own physical and mental well-being, too. In the long run, that helps you be a better partner in health.
1. Chest, 10 January 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2016.12.021
2. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. http://goldcopd.org/gold-2017-global-strategy-diagnosis-management-prevention-copd Accessed on 10 February 2017.
3. American College of Sports Medicine. http://www.exerciseismedicine.org/assets/page_documents/EIM%20Rx%20series_COPD.pdf Accessed on 10 February 2017.