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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
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Physical Activity with COPD

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
January 23, 2022
March 6, 2023

Whether you have mild or advanced pulmonary disease, breathing difficulties may make exercise troublesome for you. But when you have a condition that leads to a chronic lack of oxygen, you will typically be at higher risk for muscle loss, which leads to a whole host of new problems. If you should be exercising, but your breathing trouble makes it difficult, read this article for ways to make it happen.

See a Specialist

Any time you want to start or adjust an exercise routine, but you have breathing difficulties or COPD, start by seeing a specialist. See an exercise specialist or participate in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program to get started with exercise.

Build Strength

For a variety of reasons still not fully known, COPD is heavily linked to a loss of lean muscle mass. Exercise is not just about walking and running. For COPD, the best is building muscle. Try out Stretching, aerobic, resistance exercise.

Keep Track of Your Oxygen Levels

As always, before starting an exercise routine, ask your doctor about what is the best resting SpO2 range for you. This will make sure that you have the right blood oxygen level before starting an exercise, so that if you drop low during a workout, you may still avoid hypoxemia.

Always check blood oxygen levels before, during and after exercise. Stop exercising when SpO2 drops >4% during exercise or SpO2 is <88%.


Even with lung or breathing issues, exercise is still a crucial means of keeping your body healthy. You may not get enough of some nutrients, so talk to a Dietitian about getting enough. You may also consider a body mass scale to identify your body’s approximate muscle mass, if gaining muscle, or maintaining muscle is your main concern.