Exercise as it relates to Disease/The benefits of aerobic training for those suffering from Emphysema
What is Emphysema?
Between the year 2000 and 2012, the prevalence of Emphysema remained very similar with it being reported to have caused 3.1million deaths worldwide each year, and also equates to 5.6% of recorded deaths. Nationally in Australia in 2012, COPD was the underlying cause of 6,750 deaths or 4.5% of registered deaths that year.
Signs and Symptoms
Seek emergency care if:
- You have trouble catching your breath or talking
- Your lips or fingernails turn blue or grey (low oxygen levels)
- Fast heartbeat
- You are not mentally alert
Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of Emphysema. Other factors that may cause Emphysema are:
- Infections of the respiratory tract - Can destroy lung tissue and contribute to the worsening of the condition
- Hereditary (rare) - Carriers of the specific genetic abnormality called homozygous alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
- Aging - Aging brings changes to the lungs and air sacs in the way of lost elasticity which can become severe enough to be classified as Emphysema
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise for Emphysema Sufferers
Exercise training should be considered for all persons with COPD, in a formal pulmonary rehabilitation program. Even though there are varying degrees of COPD, aerobic exercise has been shown to improve exercise capacity just as it does in a healthy person. At first it may be difficult to commit to exercise as Emphysema effects the respiratory system and this can make the exercise that much more difficult for the individual. Even getting the individual to start small could significantly reduce some of the symptoms that they are suffering from.
Aerobic and strength training of the upper and lower limbs and the respiratory muscles has been shown to be beneficial. High-intensity endurance training has been shown to lead to physiological gains in aerobic fitness, and both high and low intensity endurance training has lead to gains in exercise endurance even for those with advanced disease. Other benefits of exercise has been shown to lead to:
- Significant improvements in health-related quality of life
- Reduced depression and improved cognitive function
- Reductions in COPD exacerbation and time spent in the hospital
When prescribing exercise to people with Emphysema, it is important to know their limitations. Mostly, these limitations are caused by the disease and therefore is important to know the severity of their disease as it will limit their exercise capacity.
Aerobic and strength training of the upper and lower limbs and the respiratory muscles has been shown to be beneficial. Light to moderate physical activity, 30mins a day, every day, is beneficial for improving the quality of life. Persons who follow an individualised progressive exercise program can often increase their functional capacity 70% to 80% after six weeks of training.
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