Episode 317 – I Have COPD What Exercises Should I Do? Short Answer – The same ones as everyone else

Written by Jonathan

We have something a little bit different today it’s a question from one of our listeners, that was actually asked last week on instagram. It’s a slightly complicated questions with a simple but kind of long answer so I thought it would be easier to just answer it on here. Thank you Mrtwinkz for asking it and although this is a very specific question that doesn’t apply to everyone the answer does, now I have paraphrased it, but I think everyone will get the gist, MrTwinkz is a middle aged man that works in an office environment, he’s 6’2” and weighs 106kg or about 230 lbs which is probably a little bit overweight depending on how active he is. Back in March he was diagnosed with pneumonia and now from that he has asthma and COPD, aka. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which means the tubes that carry the air into and out of his lungs are more narrow than they are supposed to be, here’s a fun fact the surface area of the inside of your lungs where the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange takes place is the size of a tennis court, which is achieved through these small sacks in a spherical shape called alveoli, this means that a very small amount of inflammation can make it incredibly challenging to breathe, if you ever want to simulate it put a straw in your mouth, plug your nose and then try to breath and you’ll get a similar sensation to what it feels like. Mrtwinkz has a lot of trouble breathing and now he rides his bike inside for 20 minutes every morning and evening and goes for a walk every Saturday and Sunday for 6-8 km outside in the fresh air. These are both really good first steps and if the mechanism that caused the copd in the first place has been removed cardiovascular exercise can help prevent it from getting worse, but Mrtwinkz wants to do more he would really like to do some strength training presumably, so he can increase his strength and maintain or improve his muscle mass as he loses weight and becomes healthier. But with all these respirator issues he’s concerned about doing the right exercises that will help and not hurt his condition, he has access to dumbells and his body weight, which are really the only tools you need, especially when you’re first getting started.

The first thing I want to cover and this goes for all types of diseases or conditions that make it challenging to exercise is that it doesn’t matter what your problems are or what we would call contraindications to exercise are, all the principles are the same, start where you’re at and progress slowly, adjusting the resistance as required and as you become stronger increase the resistance or do different more challenging exercises and take breaks as you need to. Stop exercising immediately if you get short of breath in a wheezy or you can’t take deep breaths kind of way, if you go from not sweating to sweating uncontrollably in a matter of seconds or if you get dizzy, lightheaded, feel a stabbing or shooting pain anywhere in your body. Then you should stop exercising, if you’re sore in a general discomfort way when you first start exercising progress slowly and if you find the pain tolerable and the exercise doesn’t make it worse or starts to make it better, then you can continue and just try to be observant of how you’re feeling in the following days to gauge if you can lift more less or stay at the same weight. Becoming in tune with your body and paying attention to how you’re feeling will help you gauge what you can and can’t do.

When you’re first starting out and you’re not sure what weight to lift, er on the side of lighter to test and then if you can do 15 reps of a weight and after those reps you feel like you could still do more while at the same time keeping your form then you can increase the weight 5 or 10- lbs at a time using your best judgment. The bigger the muscle group or the more muscles involved the more weight you should be able to lift, most people could handle between 10 and 25 lbs. doing a split squat which is a leg exercise, whereas most people would be between 3 and 15 lbs. when doing a shoulder press over their heads. There is no way to know what you can lift until you start trying to lift.

In this next part I’m going to describe a workout, with very brief descriptions, but if you’re interested in seeing the layout of an example workout checkout our show notes and I will give everyone access to Our Online Exercise Platform and if you want a course that lays all these steps out in great detail or want to watch some follow along programs where I show you the exercises and explain why I’m making that exercise choice in that moment there is a link to our Fitness For Beginners Course.

In terms of the workout for a general conditioning beginner I like to have it laid out like this, start with a dynamic warm-up where you do 3 to 5 exercises geared towards you focussing on your proper movement patterns and warming up the muscles so you’re primed to do the actual workout portion, a good example of a warm up for you MrTwinkz would probably be a goblet squat, low trap punch, a glute bridge and push-up plus. This will basically warm-up your full body and help you practice the squat movement, the overhead movement with the low trap punch, shoulder blade stabilization and retraction with the push-up plus and low trap punch and your glute activation with the glute bridge.

In the warm-up 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise is fine and when you get to 10 or 15 you should still be able to do more, that’s okay because it’s the warm-up. Then take a 45 sec to 1 minute break and you can shift to your working exercises where the object is to now break your muscles down so they have to repair back stronger than they currently are – I like to have beginners only do 1 exercise at a time or 2 back to back exercises in a super-set until they get comfortable doing the exercises properly and understand where their lifting capacity is, then they can make a bigger super-set or circuit if they want. A lot of places and bootcamps just throw people into exercise circuits where you’ll do 5 to 10 exercises in a row before taking a break and then doing it again, but that’s usually how people get hurt and I want you to avoid that. In-terms of repetitions I like people to stay on the higher end, so 12 or 15 repetitions in a row and the first few times don’t go to failure, but then once you start to adapt then you can start going to failure once you are used to doing the exercises.

With all these considerations I think the routine should have these or some variation of these exercises,

A big Leg exercise like a Split Squat – which is like a stationary lunge holding weights at your sides or no weights to practice first.

A big pulling exercise, like a bent over row with dumbbells

A stabilization core or abdominal exercise like a plank or horizontal band pull

A big pushing exercise like a push-up or dumbbell chest press

A lower body pulling exercise or glute activation exercise like a stability ball hamstring curl or glute bridge variation

An overhead pressing exercise like a shoulder press or pike push-up

All of those exercises are laid out in detail in our Fitness For Beginners Course

Each exercise should be completed 2 or 3 times and if you want to save a bit of time you can do two of them back to back then take your 1 to 1.5 minute break.

The final phase of the program is the cooldown which can be a combination of static and dynamic stretches and foam rolling or self-massage. This can help your mobility and help you feel less sore in the following days. When doing a static stretch I recommend you hold it where you really feel your muscle, but once you feel the muscle release pull it harder until you’ve done that a few times, usually it takes about 30 to 45 seconds.

I usually recommend you stretch all the muscles you used in your workout or pick 3 to 5 that are most relevant to you, in this program a quadriceps stretch, a glute stretch, a hamstring stretch for your thighs would be good, and a bowing lat stretch and a dynamic chest stretch like a snow angel would be good as well. Again head to the show notes we have tonnes of demos there.

MrTwinkz if I could draw this back to you specifically for a second, I know that when your first starting out sometimes it can be scary because you’re not sure what to do, but as long as you start slow, increase the resistance as you get stronger and listen to your body you will significantly decrease your chance of hurting yourself and get the maximum benefit of the workout and as always ask questions as they come up.



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