Cal's Story: Learning to Exercise When You Have COPD
That's what Cal asked himself over and over after he was diagnosed with severe COPD 5 years ago.
"I spent the first 2 years moping around the house, feeling sorry for myself," he says. "I didn't go anywhere, I didn't do anything. I just sat in front of the TV and tried not to think about anything."
Then one day Sonny, his 5-year-old granddaughter, walked up to him as he sat in his easy chair. "She looked up at me—she's got these enormous brown eyes—and she said, 'Poppy, why won't you come outside and play with me?'
"Well, it about broke my heart. I decided that day to get out of that chair and get back into life. The trouble was, I couldn't take 10 steps without getting out of breath."
But he decided 10 steps was a good start. "I got on our old treadmill and walked for 1 minute that first day."
It was really hard for Cal. He had to stop twice, and he needed his oxygen while he was doing it. But he did it again the next day, and the next. Then he decided to see if he could add 1 minute of walking each week.
One minute gradually became 5 minutes. Then 5 minutes eventually turned into 15 minutes.
"That was 3 years ago," says Cal. "Now I walk an hour around my neighborhood every day. That's right, an hour! And I do it without my oxygen."
Cal thinks it helped a lot that he increased his walking time so gradually. It kept him from getting discouraged. "Now I feel better than I have in years. I'm really amazed."
And after school every day, Sonny and her little brother come over and play in the yard with their Poppy.
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with this condition.
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda MD - Pulmonology