Running with COPD

When people are out running they can sometimes struggle when trying to draw in oxygen to cope with the demands the body is placing on them.  This would be normally be associated with someone who is physically out of shape. However, if the symptoms persist then it could be more medically related and it is advisable you contact your GP.

Whether you are a seasoned runner or new to running, breathing difficulties are quite common regardless of age or fitness so it is always advisable to get checked out as this could be a more serious condition such as COPD or asthma.

When out running, the respiratory system plays a critical role in the body’s proper functioning. During any type of vigorous physical activity, the muscles require a significant amount of oxygen. As a result, the respiratory system must work much more quickly and efficiently to deliver this oxygen. Air is pulled into the body through the mouth or nose, and then flows down the airways into the lungs. In the lungs, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. After this exchange, oxygen is transported to various parts of the body, while carbon dioxide is exhaled. Breathing problems such as COPD can be caused by a number of problems in the lungs or airways.

Some runners may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This refers to several different lung diseases, which make breathing an extremely difficult task, particularly if you are a keen runner. The three main conditions in the COPD category include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthmatic bronchitis – all as severe as each other. Sufferers of COPD have an extremely difficult time breathing, even while they are resting. However, if the person attempts to run, the symptoms will likely become significantly worse. To ensure safety, a person with COPD should consult a physician for advice on COPD treatment. There are various treatments available for COPD sufferers including:

  • Quitting smoking if you are a smoker.
  • Taking medication to dilate airways and decrease airway inflammation.
  • Vaccinations against flu and pneumonia.
  • Oxygen supplementation
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation.

Taking advice from your GP or medical health advisor can help improve running performance if you are a keen runner or are looking at starting to run.