emphysema and running

My father has been diagnosed recently with  mild  emphysema he is on a steriod to help with his breathlessness , we were talking about running and he said he would love to a marathon but he would never be able to now ! I challenged him to this and said i was sure there were people out there who still ran with Emphysema , Can anyone tell me if that is true or they know of runners with the disease i dont seem to be able to find much out on the web. Many thanks.


  • Hi Ben

    I am running with mild COPD (which may involve some emphysema according to the lit.). I am training to get mara fit (as opposed to mara fat that sounds like a pea).  So it is not out of the question. Maybe look up COPD on search -you may get summat on emphysema.

    Hope your dad is giving up or thinking of giving up the fags (assuming s,moking has something to do with it). Anyway -my build up is extremely slow. Started at 5 minutes 10 weeks ago -big run is now 20 minutes. OK it is gonna take 12 months -so what!

    best of luckimage

  • perfectly possible ben , depending onhow bad/good his lung function is and how fast he wants to do the marathon

    i know of a very good ultra runner who has cystic fibrosis-quite a bit worse than mild emphysema

    if he is on a steroid inhaler then his symptoms are partially reversible-so its a bit more like asthma-and you know who has asthma and runs marathons?



  • leading British man at FLM a few years back had cystic fibrosis too.

    long term steroid use can affect bone density, so some exercise would be good to help counteract that image

  • good grief-surprised that cystic fibrosis peops can run.
  • SlugstaSlugsta ✭✭✭

    Peeps with COPD/emphysema are often afraid of the breathlessness and do everything they can to avoid it (understandably). In fact mild/moderate breathlessness is not harmful and exercising to this level can actually be helpful.

  • interesting Slugsta. For me I sort of got used to a bit of breathlessness- so dont really issue it. I hear of peops with same diagnosis that struggle to walk down the road. I can walk for miles and run too. I wonder if just a slight breathlessness stops people rather than the actual disease itself. if you get what I mean.
  • have you managed to encourage him Ben?
  • SlugstaSlugsta ✭✭✭
    Hoose - the problem is that the  same degree of  impairment on test results will give very different degrees of breathlessness for different people. However, lack of exercise does lead to increased sensation of breathlessness and vice-versa.
  • mmm - I am so glad i am relatively active. Must quit ciggies though - tempting fate a bit there - not good at goodbyes I guess. I would play hell at anybody else smoking in such a position believe me.

  • I have cystic lung disease and i run between 5 and 6 miles every morning although iv being running 20 years, i  also use an inhaler,If i didnt run i think or i know my breathing wont be as good, it makes the lungs stronger and keeps it clear of mucus,and this will prevent chest infections.My advice would be to start off slow jogging and build up,even just start off walking,what i would suggest is make the jog or walk, outdoors ,i swear that an hour of clean oxgyen is better than any medicine.>start soon  dont worry if hes gasping or puffing as i still do even after all these years and if your dad smokes stop him as stopping will immediately improve his lungs.good luck
  • Ben - My mum has got emphysemia (COPD) and I found the British Lung Foundation website quite useful when I was trying to find out a few things initially. They also have quite active regional support groups which may help your dad. The page on exercise is below (and you can go to the home page from there), and basically says it's a good thing.


    The hoose-gooer - My mum would die (almost literally) to retrospectively have the opportunity to quit smoking a few years earlier. She's on oxygen 24/7 now, and whereas she's a right battle axe and has 5 young grandkids to stay overnight regularly, in these late stages she struggles to get down the garden path. Quit or I'll send her your email address and then she'll really have a go at you!

  • sheesh - sorry to hear about your mum daymion.. It must get to you when you hear of smokers carrying on  having COPD.  The oxygen 24/7 is damned scarey. God knows how you and your mum feel about that.

    Tbh I have shut my mind to it like many smokers do. I have got a stop smoking clinic on the 20th. and determined to kick it.

  • Some good advice on here

    Much of it depends on the spirometry/lung function tests and degree of COPD/breathlesness.  Some patients develop low oxygen levels on mild exertion, like walking round the house and end up on oxygen treatment, yes, but that is the minority of patients with more severe disease.  With mild disease there is no reason at all that exercise should be avoided - just be sensible, make sure that take treatment, start out slowly, etc.  In fact, exercise is often very beneficial - weight bearing exercise increases bone density (which can decrease on steroid treatment), running can help to loosen secretions, being fitter and having a better exercise tolerance improves your ability to compensate for your disease, as well as all of the physical/psychological/social benefits.

    If not very used to exercising, can probably (depending on area) get a gym referral via GP for exercise on prescription - chance to gradually build up in a supervised, controlled safe environment.  Have a chat with the GP, if they are not forthcoming and supportive, ask to see a different GP, or the respiratory nurse at the local hospital.  

    You say steroids, but not if that is a steroid inhailer or tablets.  I am assuming he has had formal lung function tests to categorise the degree of the problem and maximise treatment.

    That said, by far and away, the best and most important treatment is stopping smoking - all medicines aside, it is the ONLY treatment that will slow the COPD process. 

    Good to hear that you are tackling that one, HG.  Good luck with it!

  • Hoose - please stop fags. you don't deserve to go yet. Think of the COPD as a warning shot across the bows. From a MUCH bigger boat.
  • I feel lucky that i can still be active and run like  I do ( though they are a bit spitty). In a bizarre way because i can, i have been a bit complacent re fags -damned stupid really.

    Db - yeh it is a biig warning and a scarey boat. I know what I gotta do . Been on them since I was a stupid 9 year old street kid. 40 years now.

    but I am tackling it Barking. It is the mental prep before the stop on the 20th. I was off em 3 months and felt sooo good.

    Please let us have an update Ben. It would be nice if your dad posted too.

    great advice here.

  • Ben - Apologies if my post painted a bleak picture, as Barking says that level of impact is very much a minority and i think the exercise angle is great.

    HG - She's tough as old boots and has a good quality of life regardless of the oxygen (she sticks it in a backpack a bit like a camel back) and she's involved in various campaigns now. Good luck on the 20th.

  • Thanks very much to all of you for your words of encouragement and advice it is much appreciated , i training him up for the marathon might be easier than showing him how to use the forum !!! but i will sit him down and make him read all your messages , he actually quit smoking about 20 years ago so that is not an issue now and he is more than capable of long walks at a steady rate so i think there is no reason not to get him a pair of running shoes if he wants them !!! once again thanks for all your information and support ,off to richmond park now to get on with my own marathon preperation . image
  • Hoose, i quit the fags 6 years ago after being told about my  lung disease,have to say it was pretty easy to go off them when your showed an xray of your lungs,Iv never felt fitter,run as good, or being in as good health as now,i had my yearly test few weeks ago, and the oxygen levels in my blood were perfect i and my consultant put this down to running,so please quit the fags now,i make myself run every morning to stay off them, you can do it too best of luck.
  • thanks daymion and Lillian for encouragement -will go all out on 20thimage Glad you are running so well Lillian-sure have inspired me.

    Yes Ben -get him to read these posts. So glad your dad has been off fags for ages. I reckon he can do a mara -if old puffing billy here can, surely. Maybe a 12 month build up will suit your dad . Though frustratingly slow it is the best way for us iffy lungers.

  • I haveyet to find out the extent of my emphysema.  I imagine it's mild....but  wince the diagnosis, in a few weeks time, I've been able to run 2 miles in 30 minutes.  With emphysema Wou8ld it be possible to improve this?  Will I slowly lose this ability?
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