Living with COPD? Breathe easier

Living with COPD? Breathe easier


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"When you can't breathe, nothing else matters," says Waterford, Ont., resident Lou Mels, who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) nearly three years ago.

People living with COPD typically experience shortness of breath, especially during exercise, and have excessive sputum production and a cough.

"I tried to walk up a flight of stairs and I was puffing like a steam engine," recalls Lou, adding that he was diagnosed with a mild case and symptoms came on gradually.

Lou doesn't know why he developed COPD. He suspects it may have been from smoking, though he quit 25 years ago. While there's no cure, he found significant relief through a 12-week COPD rehab education and exercise program at the Brantford Family YMCA for people with mild to moderate symptoms. The two-year pilot, launched in the spring of 2012, includes one-hour exercise sessions twice-weekly.

Exercises can be done seated or standing, says Kaitlin Moore, a kinesiologist with the YMCA. Deep-breathing exercises help increase oxygen levels, and stretching exercises target the chest area to help make breathing easier. Participants also do gentle cardio to raise their heart rate and increase blood flow. Resistance training is done to build strength, and balance exercises help prevent falls since some medications for COPD can raise the risk of developing osteoporosis.

"I feel a heck of a lot better," says Lou, who went on to buy a stationary bike, treadmill and elliptical machine for his home and now does one-hour workouts five days a week.

When spring returns, he'll move workouts outdoors for bike rides and hiking. "I can easily do two flights of stairs now. It's done me a world of good."

This program was implemented by the Grand River Community Health Centre. in Brantford with support from several local health providers including the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford and the Lung Association.

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