Reaching Your COPD Goals

Reaching for your COPD goals 

It starts with being clear about what will help you breathe better and then taking steps every day to reach for your goals. Even small steps count, and just getting started can be a step in the right direction.

Be a Goal Getter
Establishing COPD Goals

Be a goal getter

Working together with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team, start by clearly identifying your goals. Then list specific, realistic, and achievable steps you can take to reach for your goals. 

If you need extra motivation, it helps to remember the “why” behind your goals. According to experts, focusing on what is meaningful and important to you can help you stay the course as you reach for your goals.

Need some inspiration to get started? Here are some goals you might set, and some first steps you can take:

COPD Goal Setting

GOAL: Find a COPD treatment plan I can live with, and stay on track

HERE’S WHY: Staying on plan can help you with your symptoms and set the foundation to reach for other goals.

Steps you can take:

  • Talk with your doctor about your COPD treatment options, especially if you’re not getting enough relief from your current treatment plan or you’re having a hard time with your medication routine.
  • Learn what you can do to stay on track once you and your doctor find the right treatment for you.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. As your COPD progresses, your treatment plan may need to change. Download a Doctor Discussion Guide to help you make the most of every doctor visit.
Better Breathing Environment

GOAL: Create an environment free of symptom triggers

HERE’S WHY: Even if you’re taking your COPD meds, habits like smoking, or triggers in your environment such as dust and pollution, can make breathing more difficult, and may even lead to COPD exacerbations.

Steps you can take:

  • Ask your doctor about ways to quit smoking. It’s the single most important thing you can do to help yourself besides staying on treatment.
  • Identify and learn how you can avoid COPD triggers in your home, workplace, and the environment around you.
  • Work with an occupational therapist to simplify your living environment so you can reduce physical stress on your body — and your breathing.
  • Speak with an occupational therapist about the best ways to go about your daily activities at home and at work and still maintain healthy breathing.
COPD Friendly Diet

GOAL: Eat a nutritious, COPD-friendly diet 

HERE’S WHY: Eating right gives you energy for all your daily activities—even breathing! If you’re overweight, it could be more difficult to breathe. If you’re underweight, your body might have a harder time fighting illness.

Steps you can take:

  • Ask your doctor for a COPD diet plan that works for you. If you’re underweight, your plan may include nutritious foods that are high in “healthy” calories. If you’re overweight, your plan may include foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories.
  • Avoid foods that can make you bloated. For example, avoid fizzy drinks. You’ll lessen bloating that can make it more difficult to breathe.    
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day. It’s good for your body and it also thins out the mucus in your lungs. Tip: Sip, don’t gulp.
  • Limit your fluids during mealtime. If drinking liquids during your meal causes you to feel too full, limit liquids with meals; drink them about an hour after meals. 
  • Try eating 4-5 small meals throughout the day. Smaller meals give your diaphragm more room to move, so you can breathe better.    

Please note that these are general guidelines for eating for patients with COPD. Each person is different, so talk to your doctor before making dietary changes.

Exercise for People with COPD

GOAL: Exercise to help my whole body, including my lungs    

HERE’S WHY: Exercise not only improves your fitness and lung function, it can also give you more energy and confidence, and help you improve sleep, anxiety, stress, and/or depression.

Steps you can take:

  • Talk with your doctor before you begin any fitness or exercise program.
  • Choose exercises or activities you enjoy. Try biking, swimming, or even brief walks in the park for fresh air. The key is to be physically active on a regular basis. Aim for 3-4 times a week.
  • Take small steps. Whatever exercise or activity you choose, ease into it and learn how to pace yourself.
  • Try pursed-lip breathing. This can help you breathe in and out when you are short of breath. Here’s how: Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds as if you were smelling a flower. Then breathe out through your lips for 4-6 seconds as if you are blowing out a candle.
  • Consider participating in a pulmonary rehab program.


For patients with COPD, the National Institutes of Health recommends that you stop exercising and call your doctor immediately if you:

  • Experience pain in your chest, neck, arm, or jaw 
  • Feel sick to your stomach
  • Feel dizzy or lightheaded
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