Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a group of progressive lung diseases such as:

  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis

Living with COPD makes it difficult for you to breathe, and you may find everyday tasks a real challenge.

This year, on the 18th November for World COPD Day, we are encouraging people to live well with their condition.

While it may seem daunting at times, introducing new healthy behaviours and skills can make a real difference to your quality of life.

To achieve this, people living with COPD with the support of their health care team and families may have to adapt their routines and learn new strategies and skills.  Some changes may be minor, whilst others such as quitting smoking, taking medications as prescribed and exercising regularly will require more motivation and engagement on their part. 

Maintaining physical activity is key

When you’re short of breath, it can be tempting to reduce your activity levels.  However, if you become less physically active, your muscles (including your heart) become less efficient, leaving you more tired and breathless.

Regular exercise can help your heart, lungs and muscles work more efficiently, so you can do more with the same amount of effort.

Physical activity can:

  • Help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Assist to strengthen your bones and your body’s ability to fight off infection
  • Increase your energy levels
  • Help you maintain or regain your independence
  • Help to clear phlegm from your lungs
  • Help keep you out of hospital
  • Improve balance and reduce risk of falls
  • Improves mood and mental function
  • Help you stay well for longer

Tips for staying physically active

Physical activity does not have to be intimidating and sometimes people with COPD may need extra help with finding ways to exercise safely. Talk to your doctor or healthcare team about the amount and type of activity that is best suited for you.

Remember that any amount of physical activity is better than none – small steps are better than no steps.

  • Choose activities you enjoy and vary them to keep you interested and motivated
  • Start slowly and build up gradually
  • Set goals to keep you on track
  • Let friends and/or family members know when you are exercising
  • Postpone your physical activity if you are feeling unwell
  • A combination of walking, balance and strength exercises is beneficial

Remember to pace yourself with all your daily activities. It’s important to set boundaries and recognise your own limitations. 

  • Control and coordinate your breathing with daily activities
  • Reduce strenuous movements
  • Sit when possible to perform activities
  • Plan and prepare before you perform tasks
  • Take frequent rest breaks

Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression

When you have COPD, caring for your emotional health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Learning how to deal with stress and anxiety and seeking assistance from your healthcare team or family members can help you feel better in general.

Healthy Eating

A good, nutritious diet is important for anyone, but it is essential for someone with COPD. Maintaining a healthy body weight supports your lungs as they work. Good nutrition gives your body the energy it needs do the work of breathing and staying active. Healthy eating helps you have a better quality of life.

It is possible to live well with a chronic condition by introducing just a few new healthy behaviours and skills. A combination of good diet and healthy lifestyle habits can do a lot towards you living well with COPD.

Please contact Asthma WA’s Respiratory Health Team on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) for further information and support.

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