If every step you take with COPD is sluggish, put some pep in that step and fight fatigue. Pulmonologist Amy Attaway, MD, shares some tips.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Dr. Attaway explains: “Many people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are in a hypermetabolic state. Your body feels like it’s spending all of its energy on breathing.”
It can feel like you’re using so much energy to breathe that you don’t have much left for physical activity.
“There are times when someone has COPD, but something else is causing the fatigue,” says Dr. Attaway. “And those conditions are often treatable, through a daily medication or using a breathing mask at night.”
Non-COPD causes of fatigue may include:
“A COPD diagnosis may make activities harder, so put a plan in place,” says Dr. Attaway. “Whether you’re heading off for a Disney vacation or just on a walk, set realistic expectations about what you can accomplish.”
Try these strategies:
To promote overall wellness, try eating:
You may need extra support figuring out which foods will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to energy. Ask your provider for a referral to a dietitian who can help you make a nutrition plan that works.
“COPD can promote a sedentary lifestyle, but that creates a bad cycle because the less active you are the more likely you can get muscle loss in the rest of your body,” says Dr. Attaway.
“Plus, lack of exercise may lead to weight gain. The additional weight can push on the diaphragm, making it harder to move air and contribute to shortness of breath.”
Dr. Attaway says it’s vital to start a home exercise program (after clearing it with your doctor). Set these goals:
Regular breaks help conserve energy. If you have fatigue, take a nap for an hour or two in the afternoon.
“Just remember, a one-hour nap can easily turn into four,” says Dr. Attaway. “You want to stay active, so set a timer to keep yourself from snoozing the day away.”
You may need pulmonary rehab if you have:
Pulmonary rehabilitation has two phases:
“During pulmonary rehab, you learn how planning, nutrition, exercise and other strategies can help you beat COPD fatigue,” says Dr. Attaway. “Plus, you interact with others who have similar health issues. The social aspect is great as well.”