BodyMend Wellness ClinicPhysiotherapy

Take Your Elephant to the Gym

If you watch American news programs, you’ve probably seen a TV commercial for Spiriva, that promises to help you get the COPD ‘elephant’ off of your chest*.  For people living with COPD, every breath can be a struggle, but a good physiotherapist may be able to help.


Nearly 4% of Canadians over age 35 live with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD. While COPD can greatly affect a person’s overall health, the physical limitations of the condition also have a negative impact on their overall quality of life.

COPD is a chronic progressive disease in which the lungs lose their ability to efficiently process oxygen. This loss of capacity is caused by inflammation of the lungs, typically due to cigarette smoke, foreign debris, or other irritants. While smokers or former smokers make up the viagra sans ordonnance majority of COPD sufferers in Canada, COPD is not exclusively a smokers’ problem.

People who have COPD have difficulty breathing out due to their narrowed airways. Since they can’t fully expel all of the air in their lungs, fresh, oxygen-rich air has trouble reaching the deeper areas of the lungs resulting in shortness of breath and the feeling of being ‘out of breath’ all the time.

With such difficulty breathing during even sedentary activities, COPD suffers are often reticent to exercise. This lack of exercise further diminishes their cardiovascular and pulmonary health causing a vicious circle of declining health until serious disability or even death due to respiratory failure occur.

The solution is to push through the initial discomfort – while they still can – and make regular exercise part of their routine. People who exercise regularly, even those with COPD, will experience improved lung function, stronger muscles, and better overall health. While most doctors wouldn’t recommend that COPD sufferers run an Iron Man, light-to-moderate low-impact exercises like walking, bike-riding or swimming can still make a big difference. So how can physiotherapy help?

If you’re suffering from COPD, your BodyMend physiotherapist can create a specialized exercise program specific for your health needs, even if you’re living with a condition like COPD. Our RPT team can teach patients better breathing techniques and how to open up their chests to facilitate deeper and more efficient breathing. In addition, we can show you some specific low-impact exercises that will yield the best bang for your cardiovascular buck.

While no exercise program will cure COPD or fully restore lost lung function, it will promote better overall health and help to reduce the feeling of shortness of breath, meaning that the elephant sitting on your chest might just lose a few pounds.

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*Apparently Pfizer, the maker of Spiriva used a real elephant when they shot their commecial, angering animal lovers, PETA and Bob Barker. They promised to use only CGI elephants in the future. No word on whether or not any humans or pachyderms were injured during filming.