Snow, COPD, and the Benefits of Exercise

I was surprised to hear a college student say, “I don’t mind the cold but I don’t like snow!” Having been born in a giant snowstorm that tied up Boston for several days, snow has the opposite effect on me. Snow makes me feel safe and protected, gives me a sense of wonder. As kids, we spent every daylight hour we weren’t in school outside building forts, igloos, sledding, or just eating the snow and checking our mittens for unusual formations of snowflakes.

Snow continues to be an important part of winter for me. Having joined the ranks of those with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease), getting out in the snow and pumping up my lungs as much as possible tops the list of healthy exercises. The only difference now is that I have to be sure I intentionally exhale fully. If I make my exhalation twice as long as my inhalation, I squeeze my lungs out like a sponge ready to take in a big new breath. With COPD, when people continually take short breaths, their lungs get more sluggish than ever and the last thing we want is rigid, stuck, air bags.

So here’s food for thought if you or a friend are dealing with COPD. The 2:1 breath can be practiced whether sitting in a chair, walking up stairs, running, hiking or just about any activity. You can simply count the time it takes to fully exhale and then inhale to half that amount of time or you can count your paces.

Here in New Hampshire, we have a beautiful natural environment with a variety of free, built in attributes for exercise. Most of us live on or next to some sort of hill. Since we’ve been inundated with snow this year, woods trails have all been smoothed out with 2-3 feet or more of snow. With microspikes, most popular trails and roadways, especially when icy, are safely doable.

It can be a scarey shock to find that when hiking with a group, all of a sudden, you’re winded when you talk while hiking uphill, or when you can’t keep up with the group. As Sam Levenson would say, “So don’t talk on the uphill.” You’re probably not the only one gasping for breath. If necessary, find a group that hikes at a more comfortable pace but keep on hiking! Use ‘em or lose ‘em applies to lungs as well as to muscles.

It helps to find a friend or friends to exercise with both for incentive and companionship. One of the ways we can keep each other well is to get out and enjoy this snow while it lasts. This week, the group I hiked with did the Sugarloafs off the Zealand road. It was a bit steep going up but we had exhilarating luge runs coming down. All that’s needed is a big black trash bag wrapped around your tush and a great hooting “Whoo!” Ah, snow.


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2 Responses to “Snow, COPD, and the Benefits of Exercise”

  1. Louise Says:

    Snow makes me think of childhood days. 🙂 Tossing snow balls and creating snow angels are some of the things that I associate with it. Feel sorry for the people who can’t enjoy snow as much as many people do.

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