Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive, life-threatening lung disease that makes breathing difficult. It is both preventable and treatable. COPD is characterised by airflow limitation, which is usually progressive and, in later stages of the disease, can lead to pulmonary hypertension (elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary circulation), which can lead to heart failure and other complications. It is important to slow down the progression of the disease through appropriate treatment and rehabilitation to maintain quality of life. Increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour within the context of the condition are key cornerstones of any COPD treatment plan.

Physical Activity & COPD

Being physically active is extremely good for our health and wellbeing, and is promoted by the British Lung Foundation. Much of the information below can also be found on their website. For many people living with COPD, physical activity is something they dread, fear or avoid. COPD can make ordinary tasks like cleaning the house, going shopping or climbing the stairs exhausting. Despite this, staying physically active is key to slowing progression of the condition and alleviating symptoms. 

Being physically active can help improve breathing and reduce other symptoms of COPD, increase fitness, improve general wellbeing and improve overall quality of life. Many people find being physically active helps them more than inhaled drugs. By increasing fitness and strengthening muscles, individuals living with COPD are able to do more activities without getting breathless, feeling tired, or suffering other symptoms.

Physical activity helps you take back control, be more independent and can help you live well for longer. You may feel nervous about increasing your activity levels, especially if you have been inactive for a while, but this is normal. Any physical activity is better than none at all and feeling a greater sense of control over respiratory symptoms can improve mood and boost senses of wellbeing.

Staying physically active can consist of smaller, everyday activities such as walking an extra bus stop or taking the stairs instead of the lift, right through to structured exercise present in pulmonary rehabilitation programmes. In other words, physical activity is multidimensional, so finding the activities that work for us as individuals is key to staying physically active.

The Benefits of Physical Activity for COPD

Physical activity improves blood circulation and helps the heart send oxygen around your body. It also strengthens respiratory muscles, which can make it easier to breathe. Everyone with COPD can be physically active, regardless of age and severity of the disease. 

Research has shown that regular physical activity is highly beneficial for people living with COPD. In fact, it is one of the best things you can do as it can help increase fitness, improve wellbeing, reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Being physically active also improves:

  • The strength of muscles and bones
  • The ability to fight off infection
  • Flexibility and joint mobility
  • Energy levels
  • Mood, wellbeing and confidence
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Stress levels and blood pressure 
  • Risk of falling (by improving balance)
  • The risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoarthritis, dementia and some cancers

How will being active affect my breathing?

By avoiding activities that cause breathlessness, you use your muscles less and they then become weaker. Weaker muscles mean that you have to work harder and need more oxygen to perform your daily activities, and over time you feel more and more breathless. We call this the vicious cycle of inactivity.

However, the opposite is also true. When you choose to be physically active – and it is never too late to start – your muscles become stronger, including the muscles involved in breathing. This will make your everyday tasks and other activities easier, so you will feel less out of breath when doing them. We call this the positive cycle of physical activity.

KiActiv Value Proposition for COPD

Physical activity is vital for those living with a respiratory condition such as COPD, yet it is often avoided due to fears of worsening symptoms. However, by avoiding activities, you use your muscles less and they become weaker. Weaker muscles mean that you have to work harder to breathe and need more oxygen to perform your daily activities, meaning over time you feel more and more breathless. 

At KiActiv® Health we aim to support individuals to overcome the challenges and fears of leading an active lifestyle whilst living with COPD, shifting the narrative from traditional views of “structured exercise”, to include all the movement in your everyday life. KiActiv® Health supports you to find a personalised approach to everyday physical activity that suits you given your specific context and environment, which you can sustain long-term and helps you to live well for longer.

Client Quotes

“There’s no fear factor anymore.” – 52, Male, COPD

“The more I move, the better my breathing is.” – 65, Female, COPD

“I am feeling more enthusiastic. Feeling more like doing stuff and I don’t feel as sleepy. Hopefully I might be losing a bit of weight.” – 65, Female, COPD

“It has greatly improved my mental wellbeing.“- 68, Female, COPD

“KiActiv has definitely improved my understanding of good mental health outlook and seeing the graphs of my gentle improvement has encouraged me to keep at it.” 70, Female, COPD & Multiple Myeloma 

“What I’m noticing is I can get up and down from sofas that aren’t raised much easier.”- 65, Female, COPD

“I’ve lost quite a bit of weight. My trousers are quite loose now.”57, Female, COPD

“It makes you aware that every little movement is an activity!” – 62, Female, COPD & Obesity

“An eyeopener to things I could do as I have COPD.” – 66, Female, COPD

“My breathing has got better and i expect that because I’ve been focusing on trying to do more.” – 65, Female, COPD