At one time, Sylvester Catherman could barely walk 300 feet without having to sit down.
Today, he is 45 pounds lighter, and bikes 18 miles 2-3 times a week on a trail near his home in central Pennsylvania. He says he owes a lot of his success to pulmonary rehabilitation (pulmonary rehab).
“I started the 22nd of April, and I graduated in the beginning of June. It did wonders,” Catherman says. “Just this morning I rode 18 miles on the trail, and I’ve rode as much as 36 miles in a day. Pulmonary rehab really taught me how to breathe and cope with problems.”
Diagnosed in December of last year, Catherman says his doctor put him on a nebulizer, but he continued to get progressively worse. When he first joined pulmonary rehab, he said they taught him how to breathe while exercising, utilizing pursed-lip breathing.
Pursed-lip breathing can ease shortness of breath.
To do pursed lip breathing:
- Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
- Breathe in for two seconds through your nose, keeping your mouth closed.
- Breathe out for four seconds through pursed lips. If this is too long for you, simply breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.
Pursed-lip breathing can be particularly useful to COPD patients who have emphysema, a common scenario.
Catherman,76, says his doctor kept blaming his shortness of breath on his weight—but he knew it was something else.
“I never smoked a day in my life, but I had been in the plumbing and heating business for 20 years. When I was diagnosed I thought it was a smoker’s problem, but they said, ‘well, it isn’t always,’” he says.
He says he’d like to tell others living with COPD that pulmonary rehab is the “number 1” thing you can do for yourself.
“I know I’m getting old, but I wanted to know why I was getting so old so fast,” he says.