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COPD patients can find that everyday activities can be really hard due to their breathlessness and other symptoms. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a great way to help manage COPD.

As a COPD patient, even the easiest of things can be really hard. Pulmonary rehabilitation is there to improve your quality of life. What exactly is it, though?

A set of techniques that can help you manage COPD and related respiratory conditions, pulmonary rehabilitation includes:

  • Techniques that help you breathe more easily 
  • A workout program specifically created for patients with lung conditions
  • Education about ways to relax
  • More in-depth education about medications
  • Education about work-around that can make life better for COPD patients
To sum it up, pulmonary rehabilitation equips you with the knowledge you need, as a patient, to deal with COPD and its symptoms — so you can have a better life. Pulmonary rehabilitation may even reduce your flareups.

Who benefits from pulmonary rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation is designed for lung disease patients who often feel out of breath and have a poor quality of life despite taking medications. A lot of the patients in these programs have COPD, though pulmonary rehab can also benefit people with other lung diseases.

If you have COPD and it's interfering with your ability to carry out daily activities or to breathe well, pulmonary rehabilitation is for you. Your doctor will likely recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to you if you have recently been hospitalized for an acute exacerbation, but you can also ask your doctor about the possibility of starting a program if you think you may benefit. 

Your doctor will want to determine if you're a good candidate, and they'll do this by looking at:

  • Your overall health and lung function. 
  • How physically active you are at present
  • The extent to which COPD limits your daily activities
  • Whether you want to do pulmonary rehabilitation and are able to make it to appointments

What can pulmonary rehabilitation do for you?

As COPD progresses, it often leads to weaker and weaker muscles, decreased levels of physical fitness, and of course ever-worsening shortness of breath. Being short of breath tends to discourage patients from engaging in physical activities because they're scared their symptoms will worsen. Not exercising makes shortness of breath worse. One perpetuates the other. Pulmonary rehab is there to help you break this cycle. 

It can help alleviate shortness of breath, boost muscle strength and stamina, and educate you about COPD so you can take charge of your life and function as independently as possible. 

What can you expect from pulmonary rehabilitation?

  • Before you start, your health will be evaluated to make sure you're good to go. 
  • It is most likely that you'll attend pulmonary rehabilitation in small groups of up to 16 patients.
  • Your program will generally take six to 12 weeks to complete. You may attend twice or three times weekly for around two hours. Patients should commit to making it to each appointment. 
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation is conducted by healthcare workers like physicians, nurses, nutritionists and physical therapists. 
  • If you are not able to make it to pulmonary rehab sessions, forms of it may also be offered digitally via the internet.

Now, let's take a quick look at the key components of pulmonary rehabilitation. 


Exercise is a crucial part of pulmonary rehabilitation, because it is what will strengthen your respiratory muscles. This will include cardio exercise walking or cycling, as well as resistance exercises that will boost your muscle strength. With increased physical activity, you will find that your symptoms improve, as will your ability to do the things you want to do. Exercise can also lift your mood. 


Physical exercises are just one part of pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD; education about how to deal with your COPD is another integral part of the program. These lessons can be taught in a classroom, during a work out session, and even a meeting with just you and a professional. These sessions can teach you about breathing methods, ways to adapt your life, and medications.

Breathing methods

COPD, of course, makes you breathless or causes you trouble breathing. To help you out with that, you'll be taught different kinds breathing methods. These breathing methods can help you when you are out of breath while you are engaging in physical activity, taking deep breaths, and teach you how to manage breathlessness. You'll most likely learn about pursed-lip breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and leaning forward and then breathing. 

Learning about medications

Pulmonary rehab teaches can also teach you all about medications. You'll be taught things like how your medications work, the benefits and side-effects of taking certain medications, how you can get the most out of your inhaler, and more. You may also be taught what's the best way to handle exacerbation. 

Ways to help you stop smoking

Quitting smoking is really important as smoking can cause further lung damage. The people on your rehabilitation team will give you advice on choosing the best program to stop smoking, which could include things like support groups, medications, and more. 

A healthy diet

It's vital that you eat a healthy and balanced diet to help improve your health and muscle strength. In serious cases, COPD patients can suffer from weak muscles and weight loss. And if you lose excessive amounts of weight, your breathlessness can be even worse, you won't feel like engaging in physical activities, and in extreme cases you will need help from other people in even the simplest tasks. This is why it's really important to have a healthy diet.

After pulmonary rehabilitation: What benefits will I experience, and what's next?

You should feel a lot better once you finish pulmonary rehabilitation and you should have more freedom to engage in daily activities while not experiencing breathlessness. An examination of a few pulmonary rehab programs showed that a majority of patients found that their symptoms got better and experienced that:

  • They had more energy
  • Their shortness of breath improved
  • They felt that they were in greater control of their COPD.
Even when your COPD improve, that doesn't mean you can stop exercising after finishing pulmonary rehab or all the progress you worked so hard to achieve can be lost again. Your pulmonary rehab team will help you create a lasting plan so you can carry on working out.

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