“A One Size Fits All” approach may not suit
One of the challenges for people with lung disease is that exercise can be incredibly difficult and may exacerbate symptoms of wheezing, coughing and more.
If you suffer from lung disease, lung scarring and/or reduced lung capacity, it is harder to obtain the gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide) needed for the increased respiratory needs of exercise, as your lungs may not expand as well, or be as elastic as they used to be. This can lead to an impairment of gas diffusion into your blood system and hypoxaemia (low oxygen levels) which can interfere with how your body functions.
So it’s really important to listen to your body when starting any exercise programme and to be patient if your progress is slower than you might have hoped for - slow progress is better than no progress!
A “one size fits all” approach to exercise is not a good thing for anyone, especially for someone with a lung disease. High-intensity exercise is not always the best option either, in fact in one study of patients with lung cancer, researchers showed a moderate level of activity was more beneficial than high intensity exercise (read more here).
Going along to something like a community or gym exercise class can also be discouraging especially if you are comparing yourself to those who have healthy lungs. It’s important in designing what increasing exercise looks like for you that you take into account these factors and design something that is right for you.
How does exercise help lung function?
- Improved lung function; exercise can help improve your lung function by increasing your lung capacity and strengthening your respiratory muscles; this can lead to improved breathing and less shortness of breath;
- Increased endurance; exercise can help increase your endurance and overall fitness level, allowing you to engage in daily activities with less fatigue;
- Reduced risk of exacerbations; regular exercise can help reduce the frequency and severity of exacerbations in diseases like COPD, which can reduce the need for hospitalisation and other complications;
- Better mood and mental health; exercise is known to release endorphins, which can help improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety;
- Improved quality of life; by improving your lung function, endurance, and overall health, exercise can help you live a more fulfilling life with a lung disease.
Exercise also has great benefits for your immune system, which is critical for those who have chronic respiratory issues. Exercise reduces age-related oxidative damage and chronic inflammation, increases autophagy (cleaning out of damaged cells), and improves mitochondrial function (cellular energy production), and improves cell signaling pathways and insulin sensitivity.
Darcy has poor lung function from his sarcoidosis – he moved house a couple of years ago and has to climb crazy steep stairs every day (he also has an amazing view). He believes that this hard daily exercise has contributed to him improving his lung function and capacity - every bit helps!
Sometimes, it's increasing the little everyday things which can make a difference - walking, gardening, and housework all help improve lung function. As the days get shorter, we do have to make more of an effort - we would love to hear your story on what you do to get our there and making a difference to your lungs - even when the going is very tough!
If you enjoyed this blog, there are many more, as well as podcasts to listen to, that you can access via our website www.zesttwellness.com