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10 Benefits of Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Most COPD guidelines recommend completion of a pulmonary rehabilitation program for anyone with mild to moderate COPD, or anyone who experiences a restriction in activities due to difficulty breathing or other COPD symptoms. While it won’t improve lung function or cure your COPD, it may improve the quality and length of your life.

That said, here are 10 benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation, or 10 reasons why completion of such a program may benefit you.

1. You’ll become educated about your disease. You’ll learn the importance of quitting smoking and receive some tips on how to quit.  You’ll learn the basics of your disease and how to manage yourself on a daily basis. You’ll learn how to manage flare ups and when to call for help.

2. You’ll learn about COPD medicine. You’ll also learn about the medicines used to prevent and treat COPD symptoms. You will learn about inhalers and nebulizers and may even be asked to demonstrate that you are using them correctly.

3.  You’ll learn the importance of staying active.  You’ll learn that daily exercise is important, even if it entails a simple walk through the house. You’ll  learn what exercises are best for you, and how to use the equipment safely.   Exercise helps boost your immune system to keep you healthy, and reduces your fatigue so you can stay active.

4.  It improves your sense of well-being. COPD has been linked with depression.  Exercise causes your brain to release chemicals called endorphins. They are often referred to as “exogenous morphine” because they act similarly to morphine in reducing the perception of pain and improving your sense of well-being.  Exercise may actually be the best way to prevent and treat depression so you continue to feel good about yourself and your life.

5.  It reduces the feeling of dyspnea (air hunger) with movement. Part of exercise training may entail riding a stationary bike. This helps to strengthen your heart so it becomes more efficient at pumping oxygen and other nutrients throughout your body. This helps to make you more dyspnea tolerant, or less likely to feel winded when you exert yourself. So you should be able move around and stay active for longer periods of time.

6.  Helps you keep up your strength.  When you don’t move around for fear of getting winded, this can cause muscle wasting that makes it even harder to move around.  A key part of pulmonary rehab is using light weights to provide resistance training to the muscles of your arms and legs to help you maintain the muscle strength you need to stay physically active.

7.  You’ll learn healthy eating habits.   Not eating a healthy diet may also lead to muscle wasting. Since some foods and large meals may cause gas and bloating that makes breathing difficult, some resort to poor eating habits.  Nutrition counseling teaches you what foods you can eat to assure you’re getting the nutrients you need to keep up your strength and endurance. It also teaches healthy eating habits, such as eating light meals more frequently, so you can breathe easy and stay active.

8.  Psychosocial support.  Along with the wonderful experts helping you, you’ll meet other people living with it just like you.  These encounters sometimes lead to friends who may offer you emotional, spiritual, and motivational support you need as you make the necessary lifestyle changes to adjust to living with a chronic lung disease.

9.  Helps keep you out of the hospital.  Studies show pulmonary rehabilitation reduces hospital admissions and readmissions.  One theory suggests that itblo slows the progression of the disease, making flare-ups less frequent and less severe.

10.  It may help you live longer.  Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to slow the progression of your disease. Wearing oxygen as prescribed, if prescribed, is also proven to prolong life. While studies are inconclusive, some seem to suggest that completion of a pulmonary rehabilitation program may also slow progression of your disease so you can breathe easier, live better, and live longer with COPD.

Studies continue to pour in that indicate even greater benefits.  Studies show benefits even for those with mild COPD, or with no exercise limitation. Studies show that the longer the program the benefits. However, studies also show that these benefits are not long lasting. For this reason, most doctors recommend to those who have completed a program, or who cannot participate, exercise at least 20 minutes every day, even if it entails a simple walk.


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Guidelines for Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programs, 4th Ed., Human Kinetics, 2010, pages 1-4
  2. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, Global Strategy For The Diagnosis, Management, And Prevention Of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD Guidelines),  Updated 2016, pages 26-29
  3. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, What Are The Benefits And Risks of Pulmonary Rehabilitation?, accessed March 15, 2016
  4. Medscape, Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Acute Exacerbations of COPD: Does PR Reduce AECOPDS?,, accessed March 15, 2016 National Jewish Health, COPD Treatment: Pulmonary Rehabilitation,, accessed Marck 15, 2016
  5. Lan, et al, Benefits of Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Patients With COPD and Normal Exercise Capacity, Respiratory Care, September 1, 2013, vol 58, no. 9


  • carolbentley
    4 years ago

    When I started pulmonary rehab my lung function was 19% and I needed a transplant. In 8 months my lung function went to 33%. I weighed 99 lbs. before. after rehab weighed 130 and I am totally off of oxygen. I am no longer needing a transplant.
    I was surprised that you stated it would not increase lung function!!

  • swinkler2
    4 years ago

    Does anyone know if Medicare covers Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    4 years ago

    It generally is covered, or at least partly covered, by medicare if you have mild or moderate COPD and a referral from your doctor. To learn more, check out this link to

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