Benefits of Exercise with COPD

Hand weights for working out with COPD.Staying active, eating healthy, and building muscle is good for the body and mind, especially if you’re living with a respiratory condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, you may find it more challenging than others to exercise on a regular basis if you’re experiencing a flare up or worsening of COPD symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, or chronic cough.

Talk to our patient advocate teamIn this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of exercise with COPD and include some healthy tips you can try at home.

Before we get started, let’s first address a common question you might be asking: Is it safe to exercise with COPD? The short answer is yes, but it’s important to note that not all exercises are the right fit for you. The type of exercise you perform, and how often you do it, will depend on your individual condition and your doctor’s recommendation. *Always be sure to consult with your doctor before trying any new exercise program. 

Next, let’s discuss another question: how does exercise benefit you if you’re living with COPD? According to the American Lung Association (ALA): “Exercises help your blood circulate and helps your heart send oxygen to your body. It also strengthens your respiratory muscles. This can make it easier to breathe.”[1]

ALA further states that exercise can improve your mood—reducing feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression. It may also increase your self-esteem.[2]

Now that we covered the benefits of exercise with COPD, let’s review the types of physical activities your doctor may recommend to try:

Person with COPD holding hand weightsResistance Training

As mentioned earlier, strengthening exercises that help increase the strength of your respiratory muscles can help you breathe easier.[3] Your doctor may recommend weights or resistance bands to help you perform a series of reps that help strengthen your muscles. Remember to always have a loved one nearby to spot you, especially in the event that you experience fatigue or shortness of breath either during or after your workout.


Graphic icon of person with COPD stretchingBefore you begin any type of exercise, even walking down the street, be sure to give your muscles a good stretch, so they warm up and you avoid injury. ALA recommends that you practice holding a gentle stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, slowly breathing in and out. Repeat this a few times.[4] Talk to your doctor about the types of stretches you can practice each day.


Cardiovascular activity can range from walking, swimming, biking, and other popular aerobics. Talk to your doctor about which cardio workout is right for you. For tips on how to practice breathing during exercise, visit the Cleveland Clinic for a set of basic guidelines.

Person with COPD doing cardio.Another option is to talk to your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation. These types of programs are designed to help people living with a chronic lung condition, like COPD or bronchiectasis. The goal is to help you strengthen your lungs and muscles to improve oxygen flow, thereby reducing shortness of breath during physical activities.

These programs are typically administered through the assistance of a nurse, clinician, or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), and a major component of this program is educating you on how your lungs function and support the rest of your body, so you feel more in control of your health and wellness.[5]

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For more helpful tips and resources on managing your COPD symptoms, stay connected to our blog page for new articles each month. You can also head over to our support page for information on COPD and other chronic lung conditions like bronchiectasis.

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[1] American Lung Association. “Physical Activity and COPD.” Retrieved from

[2] American Lung Association. “Physical Activity and COPD.” Retrieved from

[3] Cleveland Clinic. “COPD: Exercise and Activity Guidelines.” Retrieved from–activity-guidelines

[4] American Lung Association. “Physical Activity and COPD.” Retrieved from

[5] American Lung Foundation. “The Basics of Pulmonary Rehabilitation.” Retrieved from