Keeping up an active lifestyle is essential for your health, but you may wonder if your oxygen tank will impede your exercise. While it can get tricky, there’s no reason you can’t work out while using a portable oxygen concentrator. We’ve compiled some tips, techniques, and ideas of smart ways to exercise while you’re on oxygen so you can focus on living a healthy lifestyle.
How Oxygen Helps You Exercise
If you’ve tried to exercise while on supplemental oxygen, the tubes may have gotten in your way and the parts of tubing that loop over your ears may have felt uncomfortable—these factors lead to some people thinking, “I’ll just work out without my oxygen tank.” Don’t do this! Activities that get your heart rate up require more oxygen than day-to-day movement.
Exercising without your supplemental oxygen will likely lead to shortness of breath, coughing, and severe fatigue. The best thing to do isn’t to stop exercising altogether; it’s to learn the best workouts you can do with your portable oxygen concentrator.
Your concentrator will ensure that blood oxygen levels stay where they need to be regardless of your activity, and you should notice increased stamina, as well.
Exercising While Connected to a Concentrator
We’ll first note that this article assumes you’re using a portable oxygen concentrator. These units are far more portable than 50-pound tanks and make exercise much easier. If you don’t have a portable oxygen concentrator, talk to your doctor about them and cite your desire for exercise as the main reason for wanting one.
While a portable oxygen concentrator allows for more mobility than a tank, you’ll still need to overcome some challenges.
Before you throw yourself into a workout (especially if it’s been a little while since your last trip to the gym), it’s important to take time to strengthen your breathing muscles and train your body to breathe with less effort. Try these two exercises for five to ten minutes a few times a day.
Lie down on your back and bend your knees. Put a hand on your stomach and your other hand on your chest. Breathe deeply for three seconds, trying your best to make your hand on your stomach rise while keeping the hand on your chest still. Tighten up your stomach muscles and let go of the breath slowly.
You can do this exercise in any position (including while exercising). Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and breathe in through your nose (with your mouth closed). Then, purse your lips and exhale for four seconds. The general rule is to breathe out for double the time that you breathe in. If you do this while exercising, it should help you maintain a steady heart rate.
Before You Work Out
With those breathing exercises under your belt, it’s time to break out the workout gear and start exercising. Well, it’s almost time. You should do some preparation ahead of time to ensure the most comfortable (and safest) experience possible.
As we mentioned previously, exercise requires a steady supply of oxygen. Before you get your heart racing, check on your equipment to ensure everything is functioning properly. Do a quick spot-check of your oxygen mask, nasal cannula, and tubing. Make sure everything is secured to the oxygen source.
You should also remember to charge the batteries in a portable unit, so it doesn’t die during the workout. If it does, don’t worry! Either keep a spare battery nearby or wind down your exercises if the concentrator dies.
Tubing is the area that offers the most potential for annoyance while working out because it can really get in the way if you don’t have a portable oxygen concentrator. Before hopping on the treadmill, secure the tube that connects your nasal cannula to the extension tubing. Use a clip to hook it to your waistband.
Many oxygen concentrator manufacturers sell clips separately for this very purpose; it’s a good idea to always have a few accessible. You may also want to try threading the tubes through the inside of your shirt. You’ll quickly learn the most comfortable option for you, so give them all a try and see what sticks.
If your tubing is long enough, connect a hook to a surface a few feet off the ground and string the tube over it. This will reduce the potential for tripping.
With a portable concentrator, you can simply wear your oxygen source on your person.
A lot of the tubing from your oxygen source will come in contact with your skin (the tubes that loop over your ears, for example). With friction from exercise, this tubing can become irritating. Ear cushions are small pieces of foam that go under the tubing to prevent chafing and discomfort—they may not look like much, but they’ll cut down on ear pain instantly.
It’s time to talk about exercises! Now that you’ve done all the breathing exercises and preparation, you’re ready to work out and move toward a healthy lifestyle. Not all exercises are safe to do with COPD, so talk to your doctor about how much you can push yourself. In general, it’s best to look for low-impact exercises that still get your blood pumping.
Walking may not seem like much, but it’s much better than avoiding exercise altogether. Try walking for 30 minutes a day (or less if it feels too daunting). If it’s been a long time since you last worked out, this is a great way to get back into the swing of things.
Low-impact aerobic exercises are a great option on oxygen. Running can be harsh on your feet, so try a stationary bike for a workout. Don’t push yourself too hard; remember that you should take breaks as often as you need.
Lift Light Weights
It isn’t all aerobics! Lifting light weights helps keep your arm muscles in shape—without a bit of arm exercise every now and again, even a gallon of milk can become a daunting task. This isn’t about winning a bodybuilding competition, so don’t overexert yourself.
With all these smart ways to exercise while you’re on oxygen, the most important thing to keep in mind is to listen to your doctor and your body. If exercise is right for you, we have several portable oxygen concentrators for sale, and we’re more than happy to help you find the right option!