Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

One of the things I'm doing

with my new-found time (and through my COBRA benefits) is to go to pulmonary rehabilitation twice a week. That sounds ominous. I don't have COPD, but I do have some asthma issues that kick in with allergens but especially with exercise. Since it would benefit me to be more active, I would like to be able to exercise better. But I get pretty short of breath after a very short time, so I avoid it.

Turns out, that when we get short of breath, the air gets trapped in the bottom of our lungs, and that sets up a vicious circle where we continue to have shortness of breath, because we change our breathing and make it worse.

So pulmonary rehab consists of three main exercises I'm doing. One is that I inhale with a gizmo in my mouth that provides resistance, so I have to work harder as I adjust it up. The second has me blow into a tube and have my breath keep a plastic piece in a certain range for as long as possible. Both of these strengthen the muscles and encourage back breathing, so air doesn't get trapped in the bottom of your lungs. I come out of there actually feeling muscles I didn't know I had in my ribs and back area. The third is really important. You inhale through your nose and then purse your lips and let the air naturally flow (rather than blowing it out) through that smaller hole, trying to keep it going for as long as possible. Then it's put to the test while exercising--inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth, and while that sounds easy, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. At first today I was exhaling longer like when we're sitting, and so my inhalations were quite short, and I was getting very short of breath. But then they showed me how to adjust and I got much better. I did a warm-up on the treadmill, worked 10 minutes on a piece of equipment they call the beast, which is sort of like a recumbent elliptical but you're tilted back), and then 5 on another type of recumbent elliptical that was more normal, and 5 minutes on the treadmill for cool-down. That sounds pretty small, but it was a good workout for me, where I had decent oxygen and heart rate readings and felt tired without being exhausted, and it really felt like I'd done quite a bit. After awhile, the exercise became secondary to the actual breathing, and I wasn't nearly as short of breath as I am normally. The whole session is an hour and a half long, with the exercise being maybe half. So I exercised for about 45 minutes, and I do the session twice a week. It's certainly a good start, and as an added benefit, my weight is going down a bit even in the short time that I've been doing it (although that may also be a factor of not eating in a cafeteria every day and having very little in the house right now). :) Anyway, I'm enjoying it, I feel like it's helping, and I'm trying to remember to do my exercises every day, not just on the ones where I'm there.

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