Your Exercise Treatment for Lung Disease
Barry D. Mink, MD
Series Editor: Nicholas A. DiNubile, MDTHE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 25 - NO. 11 - NOVEMBER 97
Before You Start
Before prescribing a program, your doctor will probably want to determine your capacity for exercise by closely observing you on a treadmill or stationary exercise cycle. He or she will watch your heart, lungs, and blood oxygen levels carefully to establish a safe exercise level for you. You will very likely start the program itself under supervision, so you will learn how to work out safely and efficiently.
The best exercises are aerobic activities that get your heart pumping faster: Walking or using the stationary exercise cycle are ideal because they work the largest muscles in the body. Swimming (or calisthenics in the water), aerobic machines like a stairclimber, and arm exercises can also be helpful. You and your doctor should work together to determine what activities are most comfortable and effective for you.
It is important that the exercise program be tailored closely to your needs. If you require supplementary oxygen, it will be available. Medications like inhalers to help open your airways can be used if necessary.
Getting Into the Program
For maximum benefits, it's best to walk or pedal at a rate that raises your heart rate to 60% to 80% of its maximum (a number determined by testing), for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 days a week. It may take weeks or months to get there, or you may never reach this level at all.
But that's all right—the main goal is to improve your ability to exercise, and any improvement is beneficial. Most lung patients make substantial gains: In 6 weeks, it is not uncommon to see a 70% to 80% improvement over your initial ability.
Here are some guidelines to follow as you start to exercise:
Big Bonus: Less Worry
Shortness of breath (dyspnea) is a problem for almost everyone who has lung disease. You're bound to experience it when you exercise. Keep in mind that if you're following a program designed for you, dyspnea isn't dangerous. One of the big benefits of exercise will be your growing ability to tolerate some shortness of breath without anxiety.
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.
Dr Mink practices medicine in Aspen, Colorado, is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Sports Medicine, and has been a team physician at the 1980 and 1994 winter Olympics and for the US biathlon team. Dr DiNubile is an orthopedic surgeon in private practice in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and is the director of Sports Medicine and Wellness at the Crozer-Keystone Healthplex in Springfield, Pennsylvania.
Copyright (C) 1997. The McGraw-Hill Companies. All Rights Reserved