Same problem, What I've found most helpful is a combination of a few things. 1.) get as ultra-light as you can. I've gotten my base weight down from 20 something lbs down to 12 or 15 lbs that's helped a LOT 2.) WALK all the time, I walk 6 miles a day now on bike trails in parks around home, and I include the biggest hills in them there are. When I first started doing this, my saturation would go down to like 88 and my heart rate up to like 145 and I couldn't get up what I used to call "the killer hill" without stopping midway up and be bent over gasping for air.....over time (just 4 months! of keeping at it!) I've increased the daily walk distance incrementally from 1 mile every day to now 6 miles, with the "killer hill" done 3 times in it, now it's not the "killer hill" now it's the "pretty hard hill". And that brings me to 3.) LOSE WEIGHT! I can't tell you how much that's helped me too! Our lung capacity can't handle our weight PLUS a heavy backpack going up mountains....I've lost about 50 something pounds, gone from 202 lbs in February down to 153 lbs now in August....shooting for 142 lbs at 5' 9" and my age (64) that's my ideal weight. The last trip out (in July....about 13 miles over 2 days) I was still getting winded but NOTHING like the time before that trip (April...8 miles took me 13 hours) back then I got de-saturated and at first was able to make it blaze to blaze on the trees....then it got to halfway between blazes I'd have to stop and catch my breath, the stops became up to 5 or 10 minutes. So I really think the more I work my lungs really hard, the better my lung capacity gets. Hope that helps....there's NO easy way though if you have COPD....it takes a lot of hard work....but there's a huge payoff....ALL COPD gets worse and worse over years. And the lung damage done won't "heal"....but it's been proven that regular exercise while it won't reverse it, can and does slow it's progression, maybe even stop it! And it's been my personal experience that it gets easier...it doesn't EVER get easy heck if it was easy who'd want to do it anyway, right?
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