Exercise and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Range of Motion offers Exercise Physiologist designed one-on-one exercise sessions for individuals with this condition. Book a complimentary consultation or contact us to find out more.

The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

Based on guidelines provided by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Condition Overview:

This condition refers to the narrowing of the airways resulting in numerous subsequent impairments including:

  • Breathlessness and breathing difficulties.
  • Ventilatory muscle weakness.
  • Ventilatory inefficiency.
  • Ventilatory muscle fatigue.
  • Ventilatory failure.
  • Hypoxemia during exercise.
  • Cardiovascular deconditioning.
  • Reduced cardiac output during exercise.
  • General muscular deconditioning, weakening and wastage.
  • Chronic anxiety and occasionally depression.

Short Term Response to Exercise:

Due to the increased oxygen demands during exercise, severe sufferers of COPD may reach their ventilatory threshold (the point where breathing is so rapid that the lungs do not have time to completely fill/empty). This results in rapid respiratory rates.

Aside from this ventilatory limitation, exercise can be made difficult by the limitations outlined in the condition overview.

Long Term Response to Exercise:

There are numerous benefits of exercise for sufferers of COPD, including:

  • Cardiovascular reconditioning.
  • Improved efficiency of the ventilatory process.
  • Increased muscle strength (ventilatory and general).
  • Reductions in dyspnea.

Condition Management:

Exercise is a crucial component in the treatment of this condition due to its effect on improving general conditioning. The goals for the management of this condition include the following:

  • Improvement of ventilatory system mechanics through the use of specific drug and medical therapy.
  • Correction of hypoxemia during exercise, rest and sleep.
  • Reduction in dyspnea and fear of the condition.
  • Breathing mechanics retraining.
  • Correction of movement patterns to increase gross movement efficiency during activities of daily living.
  • Physical reconditioning to lower lactic acid threshold and increase ventilatory efficiency.

Cooper, C. B., (2003). Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. In: Durstine, J. L., Moore, G. E. (2003), ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities 2nd Ed. (pp 92-98) American College of Sports Medicine, Human Kinetics.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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