3 Exercises For COPD Patients

An older couple smiling while on a walkIn a recent blog post, we discussed the top two breathing techniques for loved ones living with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). While controlled breathing coupled with effective airway clearance can help you manage your individual symptoms and find relief from recurring respiratory infections, incorporating exercise into your routine may also improve how you breathe and feel. The COPD Foundation mentions that “exercise cannot reverse lung disease but it can reverse de-conditioning and improve your quality of life.”1

As with all types of exercise, you’ll want to first consult your clinician before attempting any of the following COPD exercises.


What Are Pulmonary Rehabilitation Exercises?

According to the American Lung Association, pulmonary rehabilitation programs are designed to help patients living with a chronic lung condition, like COPD, strengthen their lungs and muscles to improve oxygen flow, reducing shortness of breath during physical activities.2 Administered through the assistance of a nurse, clinician, or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), pulmonary rehabilitation exercises also help you learn more about your lungs and breathing functions, so you’re better equipped to manage your condition and handle physical activity without feeling out of breath. Talk to our patient advocate team button

Clinician-prescribed COPD exercises like pulmonary rehabilitation are typically administered following the results of an exercise tolerance test. Your healthcare provider may have you perform a series of physical endurance activities (e.g. walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike) to accurately measure your heart rate and oxygen flow prior to designing your treatment plan.3

Best Exercises for COPD at Home

Though COPD may cause you to feel more tired and fatigued throughout the day, getting an average of 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 days a week can help boost your energy, reduce stress and depression, and improve air circulation in your lungs. 4

According to the COPD Foundation, there are three effective exercises for COPD patients: (1) warm up and stretching, (2) endurance training, and (3) muscle strengthening.5Warm up and stretching icon

Warm Up & Stretching: Any athlete will tell you that before you begin physical activity, whether it’s walking, hiking, jogging, or swimming, you must first focus your breathing and warm up your muscles to avoid injury. Harvard Health Publishing recommends stretching the following “high-tension” muscle groups to improve flexibility6:

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Lower Back
  • Hips
  • Legs
  • Ankles

They also recommend spending at least 60 seconds on each stretching exercise, 2-3 times per week. You might also consider yoga to help you get into the habit of daily stretching to improve flexibility.

Endurance training icon

Endurance Training: COPD and exercise are connected in terms of strengthening your lungs and stamina, so you can continue to perform and enjoy physical activities, such as playing with your grandchildren, going for a walk with a loved one, and spending time with friends. The American Lung Institute recommends the following aerobic/endurance exercises to fit into your weekly routine7:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Biking

Muscle strengthening icon

Muscle Strengthening: COPD exercises that help you improve your muscle, hand-eye coordination, and balance can enhance your overall health and keep your lower and upper body strong. The COPD Foundation recommends using the following fitness equipment to strengthen your muscles:


  • Free Weights
  • Resistance Bands or Cables
  • Weight Equipment 


Learn More About Your Pulmonary Condition

Whether you’re living with COPD or an overlap of bronchiectasis and COPD symptoms, staying connected to new research and airway clearance tips is essential to finding relief for your symptoms and living well. To learn more about the benefits of airway clearance via high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy, explore our website for clinical studies, videos, and other online resources on how to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

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  1. COPD Foundation. “ Exercise for Someone with COPD.” Retrieved from https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/I-am-a-Person-with-COPD/Exercise.aspx
  2. American Lung Foundation. “The Basics of Pulmonary Rehabilitation.” Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-procedures-and-tests/pulmonary-rehab.html
  3. COPD Foundation. “ Exercise for Someone with COPD.” Retrieved from https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/I-am-a-Person-with-COPD/Exercise.aspx
  4. Cleveland Clinic. “ COPD Exercise & Activity Guidelines.” Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9450-copd-exercise–activity-guidelines
  5.  COPD Foundation. “ Exercise for Someone with COPD.” Retrieved from https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/I-am-a-Person-with-COPD/Exercise.aspx
  6. Harvard Health Publishing. “The Ideal Stretching Routine” Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-ideal-stretching-routine
  7. The American Lung Association. “Physical Activity and COPD.” Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/living-with-copd/physical-activity.html