Can you run 5k with COPD?

September 6, 2022
IN
Exercise
BY
Andrew Gallagher
4 Min Read

Can you run 5k with COPD?

If you have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), one of the best things you can do for your health is to start becoming more active or exercising. Strengthening your lungs and muscles helps improve your breathing, especially for people with lung diseases.

However, depending on the severity of your COPD, running may not be the best option. It may be easier to start with walking, or look at a different way to exercise. In any case Pulmonary Rehab is a great point to start your activity journey. This might help you build your fitness and make it easier to run 5k with COPD.

You have to be aware though, exercise can sometimes worsen your COPD symptoms, this is known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). This means that many people with COPD are rightfully nervous to try running. But you’ll be glad to know that it’s possible to run safely with COPD.

Before starting a running routine, make sure your COPD is well controlled. Your doctor can help you manage your COPD before you hit the pavement.

Why would I run with COPD?

You might be wondering why anyone with COPD would want to start running. After all, running can worsen COPD symptoms in some people. But for many people with COPD, running can actually help improve their breathing.

Running strengthens the whole respiratory system by strengthening lung function and diaphragm muscle strength — two important parts of keeping airways open.

In a 2018 study, researchers determined that physical activity could improve lung function in people with chronic asthma. It can also slow down the decline of lung function, which normally happens with age.

Besides, running can be an extremely enjoyable past time and can help you improve general fitness that helps in day-to-day life.

How to Prepare for Your Run

If you have COPD, it's important to take some precautions before starting a running routine.

You should consult with your doctor. They can provide safety tips and precautions based on the severity and type of your asthma.

Carry your phone and rescue inhaler in a running pouch.

Stay hydrated.

If you’re running in cold weather, wear a scarf around your mouth and nose to prevent cold-induced asthma.

Check the pollen and air pollution levels.

If running alone, let a friend know where you will be running.

Carry a medical tag or card, if you have one.

Plan your route so you can avoid busy, polluted roads.

Start slow and easy, taking a steady pace.

Take your rescue inhaler 15 minutes before running or as directed by your doctor.

4 Tips for running a 5k with COPD

Check the air quality & Weather

If you are triggered by pollen check the days pollen count.

Air pollution can trigger COPD. Avoid running on busy roads, and near traffic/industrial areas, this should lower your exposure to pollution.

If there is either pollen or air pollution and they could affect your running with COPD, you should either rest or run on an indoor treadmill or track.

Generally, in the summer, running earlier is better as it is milder. Pollen and air pollution levels are usually lower in the mornings.

Warm up and cool down

During warm up exercise, begin walking slowly and slowly increase activity or speed over 3-5 minutes. Slowly cooling down for 5 to 10 minutes after exercising can help prevent COPD symptoms that might start after exercising.

Cover your mouth and nose

Some people with COPD are particularly sensitive to cold dry air, this can cause constriction in their airways. If it is cold outside, wrap your mouth and nose with a scarf. This helps warm the air as your breathe it in.

Leave your ego out of it

Start at a low intensity, start slow. You can increase your speed over time. As your body gets used to running, you can begin to run faster with COPD. Take frequent breaks, as many as required.

Run shorter distances and stop when necessary. This will make it easier to run more regularly, which can help increase your lung capacity over time.

Can you be a good runner with COPD?

If you have COPD, you may be wondering if you can still be a good runner. Russel Winwood is a well known runner with COPD, who has completed Iron Mans as well as multiple Marathons.

He is trying to show that the stigma about running with stage 4 COPD is not justified. Check out his website here, for his stories of running with COPD as well as other interesting COPD news.

Can you run with oxygen with COPD?

Many people, including Russel, mentioned above, run with supplemental oxygen. Unfortunately, it does make running more difficult as you will have to carry an oxygen unit on your back as you run. But, this should not be a reason not to start. After completing pulmonary rehabilitation you will have a good understanding of your limits with regards to exercise and will know if you require oxygen to exercise.

Overall

COPD shouldn't prohibit running. Just be sure to take the necessary precautions and gradually increase your running intensity and duration over time. With patience and adherence to these tips, you can become a good runner with COPD.

References:

COPD and Exercises - Healthline

COPD, Exercise and Activity - Cleveland Clinic

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