What Is COPD? by Stephen Trevathan, Achieve Clinical Patient Education

Achieve Clinical Research What Is COPD?

Did you know that COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and causes about 25,000 deaths a year in the UK? In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide! Millions of people around the world have been diagnosed with COPD, but perhaps even more frightening is the number of people who have gone undiagnosed. Doctors estimate that there could be millions of people who have this disease, but are not even aware of it. You may be asking yourself, “Exactly how could someone have this disease and not know it?” In order to understand this problem, we need to understand the disease itself.

So, what exactly is this deadly lung disease? In order to fully understand COPD, it is helpful to start out by realizing that this is actually not one single disease. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that start to inhibit a patient’s airflow as they exhale. COPD is primarily made up of three related conditions: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma.

Over time, these conditions make it increasingly more and more difficult to breathe. As any doctor would note, COPD can be a progressive disease, so it is very important to catch it at an early stage. In fact, this is exactly why this disease can be so deadly. Many patients are not diagnosed until they have reached a more advanced stage of the disease, and any damage to the lungs is irreversible.

Common Symptoms of COPD
There are a number of symptoms that have been associated with COPD. Some people may develop a chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, and shortness of breath (this is also referred to as dyspnea). In fact, breathlessness, or dyspnea, tends to be one of the biggest red flags for COPD. It will be the major symptom if the patient is predominantly affected by emphysema. Initially, the shortness of breath will be more apparent during physical activity, but as the disease progresses to a more advanced stage, dyspnea can even occur while at rest.

For those COPD patients that have been affected primarily by chronic bronchitis, their major symptoms will be excess sputum production and a chronic cough. One should keep an eye out for sputum that appears to be clear and thick. Patients that experience periodic chest infections should also be wary of purulent (meaning discolored or cloudy) sputum, fever, breathlessness, or wheezing. As the chronic bronchitis starts to get worse, these chest infections will become more frequent.

Symptoms of Advanced Stage COPD
As COPD progresses, the symptoms will become more severe, and hospitalization may be required. Patients could develop morning headaches, which can occur if their body is not able to remove the carbon dioxide from the blood. If the disease has advanced far enough, patients may develop cyanosis (their lips and nail beds may turn bluish) from the overall lack of oxygen in available in the blood.

During the more advanced stages of COPD, the small blood vessels in the lungs are gradually destroyed. As they go, the flow of blood through the patient’s lungs gets blocked, which causes the heart to pump with more force and pressure in order to send blood through the lungs. In some cases, the patient’s heart is not able to cope with the additional strain. This can cause Cor pulmonale, or failure of the right side of the heart, resulting in swollen ankles and feet. Additionally, if the damage done to the inner lining of the airways is bad enough, it can cause some COPD patients to cough up blood. In any case, immediate medical attention should be sought if any of these advanced symptoms are experienced.

What Causes COPD? 

Cigarette Smoke: The number one cause of COPD around the world is smoking. Simply put, smoking causes ninety percent of the COPD cases identified in the United States and at least four out of five people in the UK who develop COPD are or have been smokers. According to current estimates, about fifteen percent of all cigarette smokers will eventually develop COPD. Additionally, the death toll among COPD patients that were (or still are) smokers is much higher than for COPD patients who were not smokers. COPD patients who smoke will experience a much faster rate of deterioration in their lungs. However, doctors have noted that if they quit, their rate of deterioration will slow down to about the same rate as a non-smoker with COPD.

Air Pollution: According to recent studies, in the non-industrialized world, the most common cause of COPD is actually indoor air pollution. Things like indoor stoves, dust, household chemical products, and poor ventilation can all be contributing factors. Outdoor air pollution can trigger the symptoms of COPD; however, it is still unclear whether it contributes to the development of COPD.

Workplace Exposure: Some jobs put people in contact with a variety of occupational pollutants. Over a long period of time, this sustained exposure can increase their risk of COPD. People who work as coal miners, metal workers, construction workers, or cotton workers need to take extra precautions while on the job.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) Deficiency: Despite only accounting for less than one percent of the COPD in the United States, the deficiency of alpha -1 antitrypsin (AAT) has become a well-established cause of COPD. AAT helps to block the damaging effect of elastase (this is an enzyme found in the lungs, which can cause damage to the airways and the alveoli). If a person is AAT deficient, they could develop emphysema by the time they are in their 40’s. Additionally, smoking will actually increase the amount of elastase in the lungs.

Medical Research on COPD
Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD. However, medical researchers have been making excellent strides forward in recent years. For the better part of the last four decades, clinical research for COPD focused on learning more about the pathogenesis of the disease. This has led to a number of very promising discoveries. In particular, medical researchers have been learning incredible things about the primary cellular pathways which are involved in the development of COPD. Data that supports a number of new and innovative procedures and therapies has been presented, and could prove to be very beneficial for COPD patients all over the world. A comprehensive cure is still far from being discovered, but we can certainly expect to see the development and utilization of more effective diagnostic tests for COPD in the near future.

Stephen Trevathan,
Achieve Clinical Patient Education


Training a client with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Within each edition of Fitpro Network, the magazine for personal trainers, they ask an expert to answer a training-related query, and in the April/May 2012 edition they examined training a client with COPD.

We thought we’d share the question and answer with you.

Q: A new client has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). What do I need to  be aware of when training them and how much impact can exercise have on their condition?

A: According to the NHS, COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronhistis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. People with COPD have trouble breathing in and out, with these breathing difficulties being due to varying degrees of damage to the lungs, usually caused by smoking.1

COPD can progress to become a life-threatening respiratory condition. According to the World Health Organization,2 COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. There are approximately 900,000 people in the England and Wales with COPD, of which more than 250,000 die each year. The consequences of COPD may be quite serious – daily activities can become very difficult as the condition gradually worsens over time.

Symptoms can include a chronic cough, dyspnoea (breathlessness with even the slightest exertion), wheezing, muscle weakness (muscle wasting occurs in about 30% of those with COPD), plus high and low blood pressure.

Even though physical activity will have no effect on the life expectancy of the individual, according to the 2008 GOLD report,3 there are many reported benefits of exercise on the overall quality of life. These include a reduction in symptoms improved muscular capacity, lower risk of hospital admission and mortality, and improved ability for functional tasks. These benefits highlight the importance that those with COPD perform some form of physical activity. It is also important that you inform the client’s GP as anyone with more than mild COPD will be under direct specialist supervision. One form of activity that is generally recommended is that of ventilatory training (e.g.,PowerBreathe).

It is thought that including this type of training as well as cardio training benefits the individual more than just performing ventilator training in its own.

As can be seen in the guidelines, the use of a dyspnoea scale is recommended. This particular scale gets the individual to rate their own level of discomfort. The scale is a sliding one; zero indicates a discomfort level of nothing at all, three is moderate, five is severe and 10 is maximal.

Those with more severe COPD generally have limited aerobic capacity and poor posture, therefore several very short periods of activity with rest in between and upper-body strength exercises should be encouraged. The primary goal is usually to begin with aerobic-type activities and then gradually introduce resistance-type activities. Trainers should be familiar with warning signs of any cardio respiratory problem such as worsening dyspnoea, swollen ankles and high resting heart rate. If in any doubt, cease all physical activity and seek medical advice. FN

Morc Coulson

Morc is senior lecturer in health-related exercise and programme leader of sports and exercise sciences at the University of Sunderland. His book Exercise for Special Populations is out now.


1. www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/Pages/introduction.aspx

2. World Health Organization (2009), WHO Disease and injury country estimates, http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/estimates_country/en/index.html Retrieved 11 June 2010.

3. GOLD (2008), Global initiative for chronic obstructive lung disease, Pocket guide to COPD diagnosis, management and prevention: A guide for health care professionals, Medical Communications Resources Inc.

4. American College of Sports Medicine (2009), Exercise management for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities (3rd edition), Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.

END….Fitpro Network | April May 2012

Analysis from controlled trials reported improvements following the use of inspiratory muscle training (IMT), and guidelines such as those issued by NICE for the management of COPD, acknowledge that this form of breathing training has a part to play in the treatment of COPD. Read more about IMT and COPD or view which model of POWERbreathe for COPD is available.

Just what are basic breathing techniques

When it comes to rest and relaxation it is not just physical rest and relaxation that is important to keep us fit and healthy. Proper relaxation is also important for anyone that meditates and follows a spiritual regime as well as for people who suffer from breathing related conditions including COPD, asthma and dyspnoea.

If you are undertaking any sort of fitness regime or taking up yoga or any other form of spiritual programme to help with your condition then it is important to start doing breathing exercises to help you breathe better. Begin each programme with these breathing exercises and then practice them over a period of time. Depending on your level of fitness and your own capabilities this may take a few days or a few months.

Any breathing techniques and exercises that you adopt should be simple and easy to practice depending on your own individual physical needs. Before you begin any form of exercise remember be comfortably dressed. Wearing loose and comfortable clothing will not restrict your exercise in any way and can help speed up the relaxation of your body – especially the muscles, as there is ample room for them to move without being restricted.

When undertaking any form of exercise and in particular breathing exercises, if you suffer from any illness or breathing condition such as asthma or COPD then you should always seek professional and medical advice.

Pre warm up exercises

Before starting your regime you must carry out a warm up exercise to totally relax all the muscles in your body. A good way to relax is by lying down on your back and starting with your toes begin to tense up your muscles then relax them. Next work on the leg muscles and slowly work your way up your body until you finally reach your head where all you need to do is tense your scalp then relax it. The final pre warm up exercise should be geared at the whole body. What you need to do is tense up the whole body in one go then relax every part of it at the same time. Repeat this several times or more until you feel all of your body is totally relaxed.

Breathing exercises, here we go

Before starting your breathing exercises make sure you can find a nice quiet place to go to away from everyone else and more importantly a place that is interruption free. Next you need to sit comfortably on an exercise mat with your legs crossed or upright on a straight-backed arm chair. Make sure your spine is straight at all times during your exercise and breathing training.

Start by breathing in through your nose slowly and exhaling to a count of four. Hold your breath and breathe in again for a count of four, then breathe out slowly through your mouth, counting to four once again. Repeat this breathing technique for a few minutes during your first exercise programme and then increase the time by a minute or two on subsequent exercises programmes until you feel in yourself that physical relaxation is taking place. What you are trying to achieve here is to integrate these breathing techniques into your everyday life.

Starting these breathing techniques at the same time each day, or even twice or three times a day on a regular basis, will help greatly, particularly if you are looking for help with treatment for dyspnoea.

COPD treatment for breathing easier and a healthier lifestyle

If you suffer from breathing difficulties or a mild form of COPD (chronic pulmonary obstructive disease) then one of the most important things you can do to stop this disease from progressing is to give up smoking.

COPD is something that cannot be cured but there are many treatments that can help you with your symptoms and help you breathe much more easily.

COPD treatment involves:

  • Helping to relieve you of the symptoms that you have with as little discomfort as possible and minimal side effects.
  • Helping to slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Helping you to stay active through exercise.
  • Helping you to improve your overall fitness and health tolerance.

Everyone who suffers from COPD will require different levels and types of treatment. The treatment all depends on the severity – mild, moderate or severe. If your severity is severe then your family GP may also recommend you see a lung specialist.  COPD treatment can involve medication, pulmonary rehabilitation and an oxygen supply.

COPD medication

COPD is a lung disease caused by damage to the lungs. Breathing becomes difficult as the airways become blocked. The most common cause of COPD is smoking with other types being emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Medication to treat COPD depends on the severity of your condition. However, the following medication may be part of your COPD treatment:

  • Antibiotics
  • Immunisations
  • Steroids

Pulmonary Rehabilitation for COPD

This may be recommended as part of your COPD treatment. This form of rehabilitation involves a planned program of exercise, disease management training and counselling to help you stay more active on a daily basis and carry out your daily activities with ease and comfort.

One area that is covered in this type of rehabilitation is exercise training. The exercise will help you to strengthen your muscles that you use for breathing. The exercises will make your breathing much more easier and comfortable for you without you feeling short of breath all the time.

As part of your program goals will also be set for you to achieve. For example you may have a goal set to walk every day for 30 minutes. You would then discuss at your counselling how you are managing this and how often you are doing the walking for.

How to prevent the progression of COPD

If you are a smoker then it is imperative you prevent any more damage occurring to your lungs. The most important thing that you can do to prevent this is to stop smoking. If you can then it is also imperative you try and not expose yourself to passive smoking. Keeping your lungs free from pollution and dust can greatly help your COPD treatment.  Simple breathing exercises are also effective in treatment for dyspnoea, another condition which causes shortness of breath.


Strengthen your muscles for COPD

Anyone living with COPD knows when it comes to exercise it is a thought way back in the mind. However, carrying out some simple breathing exercises can help with your COPD treatment. Specific breathing exercises can help to strengthen your breathing muscles which over time will result in stronger lung power.

Breathing muscle training exercises also offer many other benefits.  Not only will you strengthen your diaphragm but the muscles around your rib cage and abdomen will become stronger. Rehabilitation for pulmonary conditions includes teaching patients the correct techniques for breathing that are combined with muscle strengthening as these are the elements that enable you to breathe correctly. If you suffer from COPD then exercise is an important activity that you must regularly do.

The less you exercise the less active you are and this leads to muscle weakness. When muscles become weak they require more oxygen to function, if they don’t get enough oxygen then it causes shortness of breath.  A suitable exercise program coupled with a healthy diet and monitoring from your Doctor will enable you to concentrate more on a healthy lifestyle without the need of using a tube to breathe.

Not many people are aware the diaphragm is actually a muscle, a muscle that is absolutely crucial for breathing. If you do suffer from COPD then it is imperative you regularly exercise to strengthen your diaphragm and get more air into your lungs. Other muscles that are strengthened with regular exercise include your pectoral muscles in your chest, your intercostals muscles along your rib cage and your abdominal muscles.

Steps you should take when doing COPD exercises

  • Never rush into exercising, start at a slow pace and build up your endurance progressively
  • If you use an inhaler keep it close to hand as you may need it.
  • Before starting any COPD exercise techniques, always clear any mucus build up you may have in your lungs.
  • If you rely on a tube for oxygen make sure it is not in your way when exercising.
  • For the best results always try to be consistent with your COPD breathing exercises as this will determine if the exercises have helped you or not.

If you suffer from COPD or any other breathing difficulty then it can be difficult to participate in regular sporting and fitness activities, particular sports that require endurance and high stamina like football and rugby. Rugby performance can be improved with some COPD exercises and regular exercise can also be effective for COPD treatment. Simple inspiratory muscle training will increase the efficiency of your lungs and enhance your ability to metabolise oxygen which is crucial to performance and endurance for any sport.



Inspiratory muscle training and COPD treatment

Patients who suffer from COPD benefit greatly from inspiratory muscle training. This particular method of inspiratory muscle training is extremely good for this patient group because their inspiratory muscles are weaker than normal. The primary cause of COPD arises from smoking, air pollution, asthma, respiratory infections and secondary smoke.

For people who live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including asthma, bronchitis or any other breathing problem it is important they know how to strengthen their breathing muscles in order to breathe properly and with ease. A good way of overcoming breathing difficulties is in the form of breathing exercises to help these muscles. This is particularly important if you are a runner, tennis performer or cyclist as these all require high volumes of stamina.

Importance of Exercise for COPD sufferers

An important part of pulmonary rehabilitation is exercise. Inspiratory muscle training exercises improve the overall strength of the respiratory muscles. When exercising the muscles train and learn to utilise oxygen much more efficiently resulting in the breathing muscles not having to work so hard. Regular exercise is not only good for physical health but it also boosts your mental health, helps you maintain a healthy weight and improves blood circulation round your body – all positive influences on your breathing.

Be disciplined and begin an exercise regime

Athletes, tennis performers, cyclists and anyone else who suffers from COPD should religiously practice two different types of exercise. The first exercise should be aerobic exercise and this should be a regular routine as aerobic exercise is great for strength and conditioning. The second form of exercise that should be in your regime is equally as important and are exercises that help you to control and correctly manage your breathing. For anyone that suffers from COPD, it is imperative medical advice is sought before undertaking any kind of fitness regime. By taking medical advice you will be well informed as to which exercises you can and can’t undertake.

Which exercises should I do to control my breathing

To improve breathing airflow and decrease shortness of breath, breathing through pursed lips and applying diaphragmatic techniques is most effective. When you find it difficult to breathe, these techniques should be used. Pursed lips exercises are done by breathing in through your nose then pursing your lips as though you are going to whistle then slowly exhaling breath through your mouth.  This technique will probably take 3-4 times longer to exhale than it takes to inhale.

Another effective exercise that can help with your breathing difficulties requires a little more patience. Lay down and place one hand across your abdomen and the other hand on your chest, slowly inhale through your nose while at the same time concentrating on keeping your stomach moving and keeping your chest still. When you have reached this point, slowly exhale through pursed lips, allowing your stomach to fall inward while continuing to keep your upper chest as still as you can.

If you are involved in sports activity, be it high stamina sports like Tennis and Cycling, overall tennis performance can be improved with some simple breathing techniques. These exercises are effective for COPD treatment as well as other breathing problems. If you enjoy walking then simple inspiratory muscle training exercises can make your walk that much more enjoyable.

Different types of breathing exercises

Proper breathing allows the body to get more oxygen with minimum effort, making every physical and mental activity more efficient throughout the day. Breathing exercises also help the mind, body and soul relax when under pressure or under stress. Carrying out some simple breathing exercises can quite literally alleviate any stress.

Breathing exercises can be done anywhere at any time. The best possible environment is a quiet place where you are able to comfortably sit with your spine straight. As well as having a straight posture make sure your eyes and chin are level with the horizon. It is important your mood is relaxed and you are in loose clothing.

Learning breathing

When learning breathing always pay attention to your breath pattern. Never try and change it, just observe it. If you find your attention is wandering, just focus back one breath at a time. Increase your breath by a few seconds every day and you will make great progress.

Sitting on a chair with your head slightly bent down towards your knees is an ideal position for breathing. Inhale through your nose the deepest breath you can while at the same time making sure your tummy presses into your legs and your body rises up and you feel your rib cage getting very wide. Exhale through your nose. It is ideal to repeat this exercise 15-20 times.  Ensure you sit up slowly as you can feel slightly dizzy.

Muscles in between the ribs are known as intercostals muscles. You can squeeze more air out by using these muscles. Exhale and keep trying to squeeze more air out. Eventually you will lengthen the exhalation so it matches inhalation and it will encourage your body to draw in more and more air.

When learning breathing it is important you are focused when exhaling. Focusing will encourage your body to bring more breath in. It is important that you observe your breathing normally for a minute or so. Once you are comfortable with focusing your breathing, try and view it like a continuous cycle – you exhale to start breathing and this and inhalation finishes your breath. At all times it is important to squeeze your rib muscles to push out all the air from your lungs. The cycle starts again when you breathe in.

Stimulating breath

Stimulating breathing exercises can refresh you if you are feeling tired, lethargic or to simply increase your physical and mental energy. Yoga is a great way to help you relax and breathe properly as Yoga uses the negative and positive energy systems of your body. Place your tongue in the ridge of hard tissue behind the palate of your teeth and breathe in and out rapidly through the nose with the mouth closed tightly. Try and do this as quickly as possible. Begin by doing this for 15 seconds and then increase by 5 seconds per day until you reach one minute.

Quickly calming breath

This is the breathing technique you want to draw on any time you are upset and want to calm down quickly without having to think much. Observe your breath for a minute. Don’t try to change it, just pay attention to it. Now, you need to focus on making your breath deeper, quieter, slower and more regular. Apply to both your inhale and exhale and keep going until you are at ease.

Laughter therapy

This is a great simple exercise which is also enjoyable. Laughter therapy is great to do before you go to work, pick up the kids or before you attend a social function. All you need to do is draw in a huge breath through your nose filling up your lungs then kick back your head and laugh. Laugh as loud as you can for as long as your breath will last. Repeat one more time and you will notice the difference.  Laughter does not cost anything and it really helps improve your life. There are so many physiological, mental and emotional responses to laughter that it really can’t be challenged as “the best medicine”. If you are going to try some breathing exercises, laughter is a great one to do.

Following the simple breathing techniques above can also aid you in your breathing and are effective for the treatment of COPD and Asthma.  Simple inspiratory muscle training exercises will greatly improve your breathing

POWERbreathe Trial – Martin Haines Week 10: 3 week catchup

“I’m keen to tell you about my last 3 weeks experience with the POWERbreathe.  I’ve not been able to blog on my experiences as I’ve been travelling internationally and every minute has been booked up.  So no time for training either; I‘ve had 2 workouts and 9 holes of golf, poor really.  At the first part of my trip I was actually on a golfing holiday and played 3 rounds in 3 days, and given I only play 3-4 times a year these days, that’s a lot for a 49 year old body to cope with!  I am a 15 handicapper (for those non golfers it means I’m not very good!), but usually play to 15 even though I only play a few times a year.  Generally though I notice after a round of golf that my ribs and thoracic spine are sore and uncomfortable; much of this is coming from my costo-vertebrals (rib joints).  So I was not looking forward to the discomfort after playing 3 times in 3 days.  I’ve been pretty good with the POWERbreathe over the last few weeks and was keen to see if it had any effect.  The difference was quite interesting.  While it would be wrong to say that I had no discomfort, I did have some, but I had significantly less than normal when I go on golf trips. This could of course have been due to any number of different reasons, but I’ve been doing these trips for some years now and have tried many different things to help, and typically of course some do and some don’t.  But I believe that the difference was from the POWERbreathe.  I also noticed a difference in the stiffness in my thoracic spine after this amount of golf; far less than normal too.  Sadly my scores didn’t improve, but as they say miracles take a little longer!

I wonder whether these improvements are because of my asthma when I was younger and the inherent breathing problems this has caused with my costo-vertebrals.  Maybe those with ‘normal’ rib joints wouldn’t see this difference, it would be interesting to hear anyone else’s experiences with the POWERbreathe who have got rib ‘issues’.  “

Martin Haines MCSP SRP MBCA


Intelligent Training Systems


UK Biomechanics Coaching Association

POWERbreathe top breathing exercises for runners

Running is an aerobic exercise. But what does the word aerobic actually mean? In simple terms aerobic is defined as ‘with oxygen’. We need to breathe to get oxygen into the lungs.  As obvious as this seems, many runners have styles of breathing – some have a shallowed breathing style and some have a laboured breathing style.  In some cases this can cause muscle cramps, side stitches, poor performance and even premature fatigue.

It is important to note that if a runner suffers from shallow breathing then this can result in a state of anxiety. This can be counterproductive for those runners who are running for relaxation.  Anxiety also causes physical tension which in turn can drain a person’s energy – resulting in less energy for your workout.

Here are some top breathing exercises from POWERbreathe

Deep Breathing

When most runners are out running they tend to only make use of the upper two thirds of their lung capacity. However, if the runner adopts a diaphragmatic breathing pattern of breathing, this will fill the lower part of the lungs and will enhance the runner’s aerobic capacity, reduce any muscle cramps and even reduce the level of stress.

Deep breathing exercises can be performed prior to a run or during a run. However, depending on when they are performed, there is a slight variation in technique. Prior to a run, take a deep breath in through the nose and hold for five counts. Then, slowly release the breath through the mouth. Holding the breath during a run is not recommended. Simply breathe in for five counts, and then breathe out for five counts. Keep in mind that it is not always easy to breathe through the nose while running. If this is the case, go ahead and breathe through the mouth.

One thing runners fail to realise is that while they are running tension is building up in their shoulders, wrists, hands and jaw. Exhaling during deep breathing exercise releases this tension.

Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing is something that is not easy to master. However, once you have mastered the technique you can coordinate your breathing pattern with your running movements.  Most elite runners use this type of breathing to ensure they have an even rhythm to their running.  These types of athletes use a 2 to 2 breathing rhythm which means they take two steps per inhale and two steps per exhale.

The Cleansing Breath

If when you wake up you feel congested, then this can de-motivate you to go for a run.  If you are not seriously ill then using the cleansing breath technique will help open up the sinuses and clear out any congestion you may have built up, making it easier to go for a run.

This technique is used frequently in yoga. Using the two middle fingers of your left hand close off your right nostril. Breathe in four counts through your left nostril. Take your thumb and close the left nostril and hold your breath for four counts. Finally, release your fingers from your right nostril and breathe out for eight counts.

Repeat this technique a few times and you will notice the difference, so much so that blowing your nose will be easy.

Adopting breathing exercises such as these can be very beneficial if you are an avid runner. Not only that, if you suffer from any respiratory conditions regular breathing exercises can also help improve your breathing pattern.

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.