Shortness of breath not normal, says COPD athlete

Russell Winwood has COPD but enjoys an active and healthy lifestyle. His approach, combined with treatment, means he has avoided a lung transplant. Photo: Supplied

Russell Winwood has COPD but enjoys an active and healthy lifestyle. His approach, combined with treatment, means he has avoided a lung transplant. Photo: Supplied

RUSSELL Winwood has not let a degenerative lung disease stop him from running.

The Birkdale man has competed in five marathons, including at New York, London and Boston, and three ironman triathlons since he was first diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, called COPD, seven years ago.

While his exercise regime and treatment has helped him to avoid a double lung transplant, he said prevention was better than a cure, urging others to get their breathing checked for signs of the disease.

The term COPD encompasses emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma that worsen over time, causing scarred lung tissue and shortness of breath.

The World Health Organisation predicts the disease will become the third leading cause of death across the globe by 2030.

Mr Winwood has competed in marathons and triathlons, despite only having 30 per cent lung function. Photo: Supplied

Mr Winwood has competed in marathons and triathlons, despite only having 30 per cent lung function. Photo: Supplied

The cause of the disease is not yet known, but it has been linked to smoking, environmental factors and genetics.

Mr Winwood said he only realised something was wrong after he kept getting chest infections.

He had attributed his shortness of breath to ageing, only to be told by a doctor that something more sinister was at play.

Mr Winwood had only 25 per cent lung capacity when he was diagnosed, but medication, exercise and a careful diet has helped him to slow the decline.

He will need to carry an oxygen container in future races.

“As people get older and get more breathless, they put it down to aging,” Mr Winwood said.

“It is a progressive disease and if diagnosed, the better it can be managed.”

World COPD day is on November 21 to help raise awareness of the disease.

Mr Winwood said he wanted people with the disease to get diagnosed and treated earlier, which would help slow the disease’s progression.

He has started a podcast about lung heath, called COPD Wellness and has a public Facebook page to raise awareness about the disease. 

For more information, visit the Lung Foundation Australia here.