Can strength training help with breathing?

Weight training for the upper body can be helpful for people with COPD.
Weight training for the upper body can be helpful for people with COPD.

Strength training (also known as resistance training or weight training) has been around for a long time, yet many people are unaware of the full benefits it can offer. Some of these benefits include easing back pain, reducing symptoms of depression, and lower blood pressure. According to Harvard Health, it can also help to manage Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) symptoms. 

COPD limits the airflow in the lungs, making it difficult for sufferers to breathe. It is a progressive disease and even though it is irreversible, it can be managed. Apart from yoga and Pilates, strength training is another form of exercise experts have found to assist with controlled breathing and the strengthening of the lungs, ultimately leading to a better quality of life. 

COPD and strength training

As we age, we lose muscle, and when you have COPD, it accelerates the process. Strength training works the muscles and helps to preserve them, making your body more efficient at extracting oxygen from your blood, thereby improving circulation to the lungs, explains Harvard Health. The more muscle mass you have, the less shortness of breath you will experience. The key is to train repeatedly in order to make consistent progress. You should, however, not exercise the same muscle group for two consecutive days, as muscles need time to recuperate. 

For people living with COPD, strength training can assist with the following:

  • Reduced shortness of breath
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Improved lung function

If you’re not a gym-junkie, you can do the exercises in the comfort of your home by using your body weight for resistance. Exercises that can be done include standing heel raises, upright rows, and push-ups against the wall.

If you're prepared to go to the gym, forms of strength training include weight lifting, resistance bands and weight machines. However, to get the best results for COPD, a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise is recommended.

Bear in mind that it is best to consult your healthcare provider before embarking on any exercise programme.

Image: iStock

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