Conserving Energy When You Have COPD or Other Chronic Conditions
What does it mean to conserve energy?
Cooking dinner, putting away laundry, or even just walking across your living room can be exhausting when you have COPD, heart failure, or another long-term (chronic) condition. You may feel at times as though you've lost your ability to live your life.
Conserving, or saving, your energy means finding ways of doing daily activities with as little effort as possible. With some planning and tips, you can get tasks done more easily and enjoy your daily routine.
How can you conserve energy in daily activities?
- Make a list of what you have to do every day. Group the tasks by location, so you do all the chores you have in one part of your house around the same time.
- Go out for errands or do chores at the time of day when you have the most energy.
- Leave plenty of time to do tasks or get to events. That way you aren't rushed and breathless to get somewhere.
- Include rest periods in your day.
- Ask for help from family or friends for chores that are too tiring to do by yourself.
Getting around and doing activities
- Move slowly when you walk or do an activity such as housework.
- Sit down (on a high stool) as often as you can when you get dressed, do chores, or cook.
- Use a raised toilet seat.
- Use a cart with wheels to roll items, such as laundry, from one room to another.
- Push or slide boxes or other large items instead of lifting them.
- Limit the trips you take up stairs. If you can afford it, think about getting an electric lift to take you up the stairs. Or use a downstairs room for your bedroom so you won't have to take the stairs as much.
Reaching and grabbing items
- Put things you use the most on shelves that are at the level of your waist or shoulder. Bending down and reaching up can make you tired quickly if you have trouble breathing.
- Use long-handled grabbers or other tools to reach items on a high shelf or to pick up things off the floor.
- Use long-handled dusters when you clean the house.
Showering and dressing
- Sit on a shower chair or stool while you bathe. Also sit down while you shave or put on makeup.
- Shower with warm water rather than hot water. Hot water can make it harder to breathe.
- Wear tops and sweaters that have zippers or buttons so you don't have to pull them over your head.
- Clear your lungs beforehand. Use your bronchodilator medicine before you eat. This can help you breathe better during your meal.
- Take small bites so it's easier to breathe while you eat.
- Eat slowly, and stop for a few moments between bites to catch your breath.
- Eat several small meals instead of three larger meals.
- If you get too tired to eat much, try to eat higher-calorie but healthy foods. Have a yogurt-and-fruit smoothie for breakfast. Put avocado on a sandwich. Or add cheese or peanut butter to snacks.
- If you don't feel very hungry, try to eat first and drink water or other fluids after meals. This will help keep you from losing weight. Sip small amounts of fluids if you need to drink while you eat.
- Choose the time of day when you have more energy.
- A side-by-side position for sex can be less tiring. Sometimes you may want to focus more on caressing.
- If you have COPD, use your bronchodilator medicine before you have sex. This can reduce your shortness of breath.
- Sometimes you may want to let the partner who doesn't have problems with energy or shortness of breath take on the more active role.
Where can you learn more about conserving your energy?
Your doctor may suggest that you have pulmonary rehabilitation to help you learn ways to breathe easier. The therapist also can give you more tips on conserving your energy. You also may want to see an occupational or physical therapist. He or she can show you how to build strength and move with less effort.
Ask your doctor about support groups for people who have COPD, heart failure, or another condition. They may have tips to share about how they make the most of their energy. You can learn more about social support at this American Lung Association website: www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/living-with-copd/finding-support.html.
You can learn more about conserving energy at this Canadian Lung Association website: www.lung.ca/lung-health/lung-disease/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/resources.
Current as of: July 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine