COPD and Nordic Walking

Mary Tweed
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COPD and Nordic Walking

COPD or Coronary Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, is an umbrella term for various conditions including emphysema and bronchitis. There are thought to be 3 million individuals living with COPD in Britain, of which 2 million are undiagnosed. Outward symptoms include chest tightness, often accompanied by a cough, shortness of breath and wheezing. The disease reduces lung elasticity, causing difficulties in oxygen uptake and the removal of carbon dioxide. It also leads to peripheral muscle weakness, in other words weak arms and legs, thus reducing a patient’s stamina and making daily functional activities hard to carry out.

For many COPD sufferers exercise is the last thing on their minds, because they fear that it will exacerbate their breathlessness, be uncomfortable and many have not exercised for some time. However, exercise is important in the management of the disease and is often prescribed to slow down the rate of the disease’s progression. Exercise that strengthens the respiratory muscles and maintains muscle mass in arms and legs is a priority and has been shown to improve breathing patterns and oxygen uptake as well as enhancing the ability to perform active daily living tasks. Good posture whilst exercising is vital, as it helps open up the chest to maximise the efficiency of breathing and boost oxygen uptake.

In many ways, Nordic Walking is the ideal exercise for COPD patients. It does not require any complicated equipment or off putting clothing. The act of walking on a regular basis builds up stamina over time, which will improve quality of life in general. If learning with a British Nordic Walking Instructor, you are guaranteed that posture will be a key technique that will be corrected at the first hint of a slouch, thus ensuring that the lungs are not constricted in any way. The addition of poles ensures that the large muscle groups of both the upper and lower body are working together. Squats and lunges - a popular part of every lesson! - are brilliant at maintaining muscle strength in the legs, whilst the act of extending the arm beyond the body works the triceps. Nordic Walking combines well with diaphragmatic breathing, encouraging COPD patients to build up their breath control.

Whilst COPD is irreversible, by taking up regular exercise, such as Nordic Walking, it is possible to slow the progression of the disease and enjoy a better quality of life for longer.

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