Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Can strength training exercises help with COPD?

Image: Thinkstock

Q. I am a 68-year-old overweight woman with COPD who has recently started exercising regularly. I have been riding a stationary bike for about 10 minutes, six days a week, and I just can't seem to go longer without getting short of breath. My doctor suggested that I stop using the bike and start weight training. How will that help me get in shape and lose weight?

A. Weight training is a great suggestion! Getting in shape involves working both your heart (cardiovascular exercise) and your muscles (strength training). One of the important benefits of strength training is that it makes your muscles more efficient at extracting oxygen from your blood. Weight training also builds muscle.

Women often think they don't need to do strength training because they can simply walk, bike, or swim their way to fitness. These aerobic activities are very important elements of an exercise program, but starting with strength training or adding it to your workout is actually a more effective way to get fit. If your muscles are doing their job of extracting oxygen efficiently and you have more muscle mass, you experience less shortness of breath when you do cardiovascular exercise and you can exercise for longer before feeling fatigued. You don't have to lift weights to get stronger. Yoga and Pilates are two other forms of exercise that build muscle.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »