Will Exercise Improve my Oxygen Saturation?

August 24th, 2011 | Author: Katelyn Turner

Dear COPD RT Coach,

I know it is important to have a regular exercise program to improve breathing and that pulmonary rehabilitation is a great way of exercising. Will my exercising also improve my oxygen saturation for daily activities I do without using oxygen, and will it keep my oxygen saturations higher while doing the 6 minute walk at my doctors?

Thank you,

–Exercise and Oxygen

Dear Exercise,

It is known that muscles that are in better condition do a better job of utilizing oxygen. When you’re in better shape, you can do more, even if your lung condition itself does not change.

However, if a person with COPD increases their fitness level through exercise, it cannot be assumed that they will require less oxygen, or no longer need their supplemental oxygen. Again, your lungs are damaged and that cannot be reversed.

From jimmyfund.org

I’m not sure what you mean about the 6-minute walk keeping levels high. I will say that if a person with COPD does correct pursed-lips and diaphragmatic breathing, he or she can increase their oxygen saturation numbers by a couple points with activity and walking.

This doesn’t mean, though, that they can get rid of their supplemental oxygen. The best way to check for oxygen needs is to use a pulse oximeter in a variety of situations: Sitting, walking, doing chores, etc. and record your numbers.

Then have a talk with your pulmonary health care professional about what’s safe and right for you.

I hope this helps,

The COPD RT Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.


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  2. Mel Mathews says:

    Some days my 02 sats are fine in the 90s and other days they are in the 80s ..do not have copd…had radiation and chemo 10 years a go…why is this so..do not have ashma or broncitis ..

  3. Joanne says:

    For the past few weeks I had Bronchitis. Like an idot, after Hurricane Irene, I went to clean up my yeard with the bronchisit………it didn’t help for sure….First took Amoxiclin and cough med, then went back to dr., he told me I was still congested, he gave me Levaquin and the cough meds……..congestion still was not clearing up. He sent me for xray and told me I have COPD. He gave me inhalers, my cough is starting to loosen and he told me I only have to use the inhalers when I get bronchitis.

    I had quit smoking 5 yrs ago……he said if the congestion does not clear up, to go back to him………could this be worse?

    • Katelyn Harding says:

      Hi Joanne–I recommend talking to someone on our Info Line. They are very knowledgeable and can talk to you more in-depth about your situation. The number to call is 866-316-2673.

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