column logo

As a lung disease patient with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), I struggled with wanting to be outdoors, but not draining myself doing the activities I used to do. Before my diagnosis, I used to go camping and hike for miles, and I enjoyed some outdoor sports, too. And while these activities have become more difficult, I have found there are some fun outdoor activities I can enjoy while not worrying about damaging my lungs.

Here are some examples:

Fishing. Every AATD patient is different, but fishing is among the few activities that we could probably all do without much of a problem, except in certain areas where dust or allergens are present. I love being near any lake, stream, or beachfront. Fishing is something I find relaxing and don’t need to expend a lot of energy or oxygen for so I hope to do a lot of that as the weather gets nicer.

Continue Reading

Gardening. This is something that almost anyone can do who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty. I just have to remember to water the things I plant. If I did that, I might keep some plants alive more often.

Walking. I have mentioned before how much I enjoy walking. A light walk allows for some stress relief and doesn’t require me to huff and puff myself onto the couch. I enjoy getting to talk to my neighbors while unwinding from any stress I was dealing with at the same time.

Hunting. This one is not one of my hobbies, but it might be one of the most practical. If I had to bring oxygen along, it might be more difficult than it’s worth to me. But sitting in a deer stand might be a lot of fun, waiting for the right target to come along.

Biking. I have loved biking since I was able to ride one, which started when I was 6 years old. I have noticed I have to take it slow and easy when I bike, or else I am stuck wherever I happen to lose too much oxygen. Last time I got nauseous when I pushed too hard. That’s why I take water and my inhaler everywhere I go.

Swimming. I also have to limit my swimming. I am not on oxygen so I am able to dive if I want to. But it’s something I can enjoy outside and still stay relatively cool while getting lots of vitamin D. I find that like most things, I have to take breaks often from swimming, going back to sunbathe, or just sitting sometimes. Doing my swimming toward the cooler part of the day helps. Hot tubs are fun too, but of course, tend to dehydrate a person after a while.

Floating. Floating might be something that would be fun to do on a nice fall day on an even-flowing stream or lake. It doesn’t require a lot of physical activity, if you’re in front, that is. I like the benefits of not having to constantly be rowing but I get to steer and row whenever I want to up there.

Camping. One of my favorite things as a kid was to go camping with my dad. We would go nearly every year and it would often be near a river, so it would be cold and/or humid at times. I can’t speak for all with AATD, but I can’t handle much humidity so I try to go where there is little to none of this. But I can handle a little cold weather. 

One of my friends just introduced me to the electric stove that you can use instead of a campfire. And there are always lanterns that wouldn’t affect me nearly as much as smoke would, but would allow for plenty of light, near the table. That friend also introduced me to the type of sleeping bag that allows you to be completely enclosed in it, keeping the person warm, while allowing a person a hole to breathe through.

Read about HCP resources for AATD

I found that I can still do a lot of the main things I miss, as long as I am willing to put limits on what I am doing. Often, that means informing the people I am with of my limits, too, because it will affect them. Not everyone should do all of these things because there are risks involved. If lots of people are around and if they are smoking, there is an extra risk for us. What moderation means to each person is important.