Symptoms of COPD include wheezing, continual chesty cough with phlegm, being prone to chest infections and breathlessness.Both can be caused by genetics or lifestyle factors such as smoking, air pollution or constantly breathing in air fumes/dust.

390 per 100,000 hospital admissions are related to COPD in Leicestershire. However, data suggests that this is increasing every year in the district (1) and physical activity has been found to reduce this in addition to mortality rates (2). This highlights the importance of incorporating physical activity into everyday life especially for those with long term health conditions like COPD and Asthma.

Feeling breathless can cause discomfort and worry, however it shouldn't stop you from being active. These symptoms are known to reduce the more active you become. You can consult with an instructor or healthcare professional before starting to exercise to ensure an appropriate start point is established that will not cause your condition to worsen. To decrease the likelihood of having an asthma attack, research suggests partaking in regular physical activity (3). Thus, it is important that you consider this as it will make their everyday life easier, and symptoms will be more manageable. Physical activity programmes should be gradual and progressive. For example, every week slightly increasing step count on a walking program. You can check-in on a regular basis to ensure you are improving but not over exerting.

Frequently Asked Questions - Healthy Lungs

What are the benefits for me and my condition?

Engaging in physical activity has various benefits for patients with COPD or Asthma including reduced number of exacerbations, less fatigued, increased self-esteem and confidence, improved balance (less likely to fall), daily physical activities such as housework become easier and as a result you can become more independent. One of the main benefits to the condition is that it strengthens the chest muscles so breathing becomes easier and breathlessness reduces. Also, the immune system will improve and there will be a decreased risk of being overweight/obese which can help prevent asthma from worsening or triggering an attack

Is it safe for me to exercise?

"There is no situation, there is no age and no condition where exercise is not a good thing." - Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer

The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks for individuals with long-term conditions (4). Healthcare professionals state that it is safer for individuals with long-term conditions to be physically active. Moving more than you currently do is a great start. If you're unsure about your ability, it might be wise to start gradually and build up, some is better than none. Please feel free to refer to the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines when determining the level of activity appropriate to you or talk to your GP/healthcare professional.

Take a look at these tips to help you move more.

What are some activities I could try?

Due to breathlessness, it is recommended to start with very low impact physical activities and gradually build this up. Activities could include low impact aerobics, brisk walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, tai chi but it is important to do something that you feel comfortable with and that you enjoy.

How can I stay motivated?

Motivation can be difficult to find if your exercise has not become a habit. Here are some tips to keep you going:

  • Set yourself a long-term goal for completing activity e.g. "I want to feel less breathless", "I want to feel more confident in myself", "I want to be a role model to my children/grandchildren", "I want to meet new people". Remember this when you are encouraging yourself to keep going.
  • Set a clear intention e.g. During the next week, I will partake in at least X minutes of physical activity on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].
  • Keep track of how your goals are going, how often you are exercising in relation to your goals.
  • Bring a friend or relative with you
  • Set a reminder on your phone or in the calendar or put your walking shoes by the door on the day you've planned to get active.
  • Take note of how you feel after exercise, such as feeling more upbeat, and remind yourself of this.

Krisina's Story

"Knowing running is helping me do something for my condition makes me really happy."

Get Active

If you're ready to move more and feel better, there are a range of activities and sessions to help you meet your activity goal. Be sure to find something you enjoy!

  • Make Your Move Make Your Move (PDF, 153 Kb)

Visit We Are Undefeatable  for more information and inspiration on getting active.

You can also meet our Active Together Champions who share their inspirational stories on how they have stayed active this year!

You are performing the exercises linked from our website at your own risk.

Whilst every effort has been made to verify the information on the respiratory conditions pages, Active Together is not responsible for the accuracy or content of external websites. Whilst taking part in physical activity, participants should ensure they take part at a level which is appropriate to them and their health and are responsible for ensuring they check the credentials and health and safety requirements for each activity. It is recommended that participants follow the Chief Medical Officers Guidelines for physical activity. Participants will choose to utilise these links and take part in activities at their own risk.


1. Fingertips

2. Armstrong, M., Winnard, A., Chynkiamis, N., Boyle, S., Burtin, C. and Vogiatzis, I. (2019) 'Use of pedometers as a tool to promote daily physical activity levels in patients with COPD: a systematic review and meta-analysis'. European Respiratory Review, 28(154), pp. 1-13. DOI: 10.1183/16000617.0039-2019

3. Panagiotou, M., Koulouris, N.G. and Rovina, N. (2020) 'Physical activity: a missing link in asthma care'. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(3), pp. 1-19. DOI: 10.3390/jcm9030706

4. Reid H, Ridout AJ, Tomaz SA, et al. Benefits outweigh the risks: a consensus statement on the risks of physical activity for people living with long-term conditions. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Published Online First: 14 October 2021. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104281