Respiratory Health

Suffering From COPD? These 9 Exercises Can Help Relieve Symptoms

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on - 28 June 2022, Updated on - 18 October 2022

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Around 300 million people suffer from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) globally. COPD is a term used to describe a group of progressive lung diseases that affect breathing. It is the third leading cause of death globally. While cigarette smoking is the primary cause of COPD, exposure to harmful agents such as mineral dust, chemical gases, cadmium, and diesel fumes can also result in COPD, especially in non-smokers. 

Can COPD improve over time? 

Although COPD has no cure, one can take steps such as exercising regularly to relieve symptoms, increase life expectancy and improve the quality of life. Some of the ways to improve lung capacity are:

1. Warm-up with rib stretching

The rib stretching helps your lungs take in as much air as possible. This lung exercise requires you to sit down or stand upright. Then, slowly inhale as much air as you can to fill in the lungs completely. Once done, hold it for a few seconds and then exhale. Rib stretching is an excellent way to warm up and start your exercise regime. 

warm up

2. Swimming 

Swimming is an excellent way to revitalize the heart and lungs without putting too much pressure on your joints. It will enhance breathing and help strengthen your diaphragm, enabling more oxygen to get into the bloodstream.  


3. Cycling 

Both indoor and outdoor cycling improves lung capacity by 5 to 10% and also prevents pulmonary infarctions. However, cycling at a slow pace is recommended so that patients feel less tired and avoid shortness of breath.  


4. Walking 

Walking regularly can improve the body’s ability to use oxygen, build endurance and increase stamina in patients with COPD. Research shows it can also improve digestion and prevent depression.


5. Tai chi 

Studies suggest that tai chi can help improve lung functions and overall quality of life. Tai chi involves the combination of movements, breathing, and relaxation, which helps to boost lung capacity.

tai chi

6. Light weight lifting

Weight lifting is a mild workout for the lung, heart, and respiratory muscles. It is a good choice for people with COPD who cannot perform heavy cardiovascular exercises. Additionally, lifting weights helps ease stress and anxiety while improving lung functions.

weight lifting

7. Yoga 

Yoga is a low-impact form of exercise that strengthens the core and increases flexibility. Asanas like Bhujangasana and pranayamas can improve posture, boost the respiratory system, and also help cope with anxiety. 


8. Jumping rope

Jumping rope 20-40 times a day improves the blood circulation of the cardiovascular system and allows respiratory muscles to take in more oxygen. However, those suffering from arthritis or other bone disorders must avoid this exercise.  

rope jump

9. Pilates

Pilates is a mindful, low-impact form of exercise that strengthens the core and increases flexibility. Studies indicate that pilates also improves respiratory endurance and lung functions, making it suitable for most COPD patients. It also improves posture and strengthens the muscles that help in breathing. 


Stop immediately if your COPD symptoms worsen or you find it difficult to breathe while performing any of the exercises. Take ample rest, drink plenty of warm fluids, and consult your pulmonologist before resuming any of the exercises. 

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Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt.

Respiratory Health

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