Weight Training with COPD

10 thoughts on “Weight Training with COPD

  1. Brian Tiep says:

    This is an excellent article. I would suggest that resistance exercises complement endurance exercises, which should occur more regularly.

  2. Bruce Buckner says:

    The machines were good for me at rehab, but now that I am on my own, I worry about my technique with weights or bands due to very severe osteoporosis. I am always worried I may not be doing it correctly, even with diagrams and/or videos.

  3. Belinda Thomas says:

    After reading this article I am so glad about it.I had stopped going to the gym and I have started to gain the weight. I am about to get back on track and continue the exercises 2 days a week. Thank you for the article.

    1. PERF says:

      You’re very welcome, Belinda. That’s great that you’re getting back on track and going to the gym regularly.

  4. Judy Skapik says:

    I would like to have a list of exercises that can help me. I have emphysema, asthma, spinal stenosis, type 2 diabetes (A1c 6.7). arthritis in hips and back, osteopenia and fibromyalgia. I am also recuperating from total knee replacement done 4/10/18.

    Please respond.

    Thank you, Judy Skapik

    1. PERF says:

      Dear Judy,

      You have a wonderful attitude. Most people with as many problems as you seem to have would not be so eager to start exercising. But you are right. It is true that some form of exercise can be of help with almost all conditions. Congratulations on realizing this and wishing to help yourself by starting an exercise program. However, that being said, a list of exercises could not be given to you by us sight unseen. You need to discuss this with your pulmonary physician and your orthopedic surgeon (especially in view of your spinal stenosis diagnosis) who are both familiar with your entire medical history. Usually a program of exercises is started immediately after a knee replacement under the supervision of a physical therapist. As a start, those exercises should be continued. Once you have the clearance of your orthopedic surgeon I suggest that you ask him and your pulmonologist if you are a candidate for a pulmonary rehabilitation program. In such a program they would start you off slowly, and monitor you carefully, while you start additional exercises.

      Best wishes for your success,

      ~ Mary Burns, RN, BS
      (Ret) Assistant Clinical Professor, School of Nursing, UCLA

  5. Judy Skapi says:

    On my previous reply I neglected to say I am 77 yr. old, 5′.25 in tall and weigh 135.

  6. PERF says:

    A reader sent us this comment:

    “I have been weight training everyday when possible for up to an hour, and never could get a body part routine system put together. If a schedule of exercises per day could be found I don’t care about getting bored . I still go to the gym and wonder what to do, how many, how much. Not knowing a plan or system is more discouraging. And one bout of pneumonia set me back almost to the beginning. Tom Storers article left off with more info to come but I’m not finding it. Any help would be appreciated. ”

    Dr. Storer’s response is below:

    1. PERF says:

      Dear Reader,

      Mary Burns and Drs. Casaburi and Rossiter have passed along your weight training question. I will do my best to answer your very good questions.

      First, it would be best if I knew a little bit more about your exercise history. For example, how long have you been weight training? I see that you go every day for about an hour but it would be helpful to know how many months or years you have been doing this. It would also be helpful to know your age, height and weight, if you are doing any other exercise such as walking or cycling, and if you have any limitations to exercise. For weight training, joint injury or pain and/or muscle injury would be important to know. Finally, may I presume that you have had instruction in proper technique in performing various resistance (weight) training exercises?

      Your plan should include at least one exercise for the following areas of the body:

      Arms (biceps and triceps)


      Upper, mid, and lower back

      Shoulders (deltoids)

      Stabilizing exercises for the abdominal region

      Legs (front and back side, e.g., quadriceps and hamstrings)

      Lower leg (calf muscles).

      The factors to consider in your plan include the following. To the right of each of these is a VERY generic application. It is wise to adapt this to each individual.

      exercise chart

      A more individually tailored plan depends on your exercise and medical history, how much weight training you have done, how many days you wish to train, and how much time you want to spend each day. AS a generic guideline, we use the mantra “Start Low, Go Slow.” This means begin at an easier level and slowly progress to doing more.

      It is possible to spend an hour in the gym lifting weights every day, but it is not necessary. If this is done for optimal gains, it could exhausting. I believe a plan can be established where you might go fewer days or spend less time in the gym each day. Alternatively, if you want to continue going every day for an hour we might be able to develop a very effective plan that does that. Please also know that effective plans are progressive and change over time for the training factors noted above. A generic approach to progression would include first adding more sets per exercise. This can take the form of adding a different exercise or just adding a set to the exercise you are doing currently. Second would be to add a training day up to 3 days per week per body part. Third would be to add resistance.

      Before we go further, let’s see if there isn’t a way to tailor the generic approach for you as well as for others who might be interested. I would not mind helping a few people with your level of interest but offering this to 20 people would be challenging for me at this time.

      Finally, it is important to note that you have to factor in how your COPD is treating you! On days when your COPD is flaring, you may well have to slow down. Do all of this under the advice of your personal physician, who knows your medical conditions

      With best wishes for your success and continued motivation!


      Thomas W. Storer, PhD

      Director Exercise Physiology Laboratory
      Research Program in Men’s Health, Aging, and Metabolism
      Co-Director, Function Assessment Core,
      Boston Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center
      Brigham and Women’s Hospital
      Lecturer on Medicine
      Harvard Medical School
      Office: 617-525-9145

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