COPD and balance

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

The idea for this article was poached from Ann Lornie, an inspiration who lived in England. Ann was a fellow patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and like me, she was an exercise nut! We never met, but we became fast friends over the years as we preached the value of activity to the COPD community. She has sadly left us, and I am sure is somewhere beautiful and breathing easily. (And annoying anyone within earshot with her urgings to get up and get on the treadmill.)

Thanks, Ann. We miss you …

Obviously, physical balance is important to all of us. It becomes vital as we age. Sadly, there is a real tendency for us to move away from the activities that promote balance as the years go by. Our youthful games and daring gradually give way to more sedentary pursuits such as sitting around like so many elderly lumps. Those of us in the various stages of COPD can find even more reasons to remain idle.

We have talked many times about the importance of exercise to build up our muscles that still work, in order to help compensate for our decreased lung capacity. Fit muscles require less oxygen and make little things like moving so much easier!

Exercise regimens can take many forms, since we all have our own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. With COPD, our capacity for exercise may change from day to day, even hour to hour, due to medications, exacerbations, or other influences. Thing is, we simply must do something on a regular basis in order to stave off the ravages of COPD and aging. Part of that activity should consist of some sort of balance training.

Our sense of balance is a complicated thing, involving many of our muscles, tendons, and nerves, as well as mysterious things like our inner ears. Luckily, utilizing that sense of balance is not something that we must spend a great deal of time analyzing. If that were the case, we would never get up off the floor. The simple balance involved in walking, for instance, consists of a marvelous set of involuntary movements, corrections, and counter-corrections. The key here is “involuntary.” Once we learn to walk, our involuntary sense of balance takes over, freeing us for other things like chewing gum or watching out for nippy little dogs.

Next time you find yourself on your feet, try something for me. Hold on to something at first, so that you don’t just fall over and hurt something. Place one foot ahead of the other, so that your feet are lined up in a straight line. Try to balance in that position. You may find it easier with your left foot forward, or you may not. In any event, it is an excellent exercise for regaining or simply practicing your balance.

Once you get to the point that you can balance in that position without a great deal of difficulty, try it with your eyes closed. Again, be careful! You will likely be amazed at the increase in difficulty without visual clues. If you are dedicated enough or stubborn enough to master the pointed feet closed eyes thing, and you are feeling really foxy, try plugging your ears!

Increasing your balance will help you in your other strengthening activities, it will allow you to move more easily and smoothly, and it will help to keep you from devastating falls.

~ Uncle Jim

Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.

If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, learn more about CAIRE wearableportable and stationary oxygen concentrators by visiting or calling 1-877-704-0878 to talk to an oxygen advisor. 

When using any oxygen therapy device please consult the applicable product instructions for use for product indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and detailed safety information.

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