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Let’s Talk Pulmonary Rehabilitation

The most cost effective way for all health organisations to improve the health of those with a chronic lung condition is pulmonary rehabilitation. This simple programme not only leads to a more fulfilling life for many with COPD, but also lowers the death toll from this disabling illness too. Be assured. Doing nothing but sitting in a chair watching the television with a remote control is a sure-fire route to disability, and early death.

I have been on a six week pulmonary rehabilitation course, and through my volunteer work with my local health organisation, still remain in contact, and friends, with the physiotherapists that are at the forefront of improving our lives. With this in mind, I was asked several questions about my experience.

What was going through your mind when you started considering pulmonary rehab?

I knew Pulmonary Rehabilitation would be good for me, and had heard so much from others about the benefits of doing the course. But was a little nervous of physiotherapist. I knew the saying: No pain. No gain. But how much pain would I have to endure? I asked myself. Would I be bullied into doing what I felt I was unable to?

Often we feel better going at our own pace, as after all – when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. In the end it was the potential benefits that led me to enrolling onto pulmonary rehabilitation. I felt there was nothing to lose. But plenty to gain.

What concerns, if any, did you have on your first day?

There really were no reasons for concern. Not even any pain or more breathlessness than usual. On the first day the group were seated while it was explained what the programme involved. That we would learn how our respiratory system works. Why it is so very important to exercise, and most importantly how to exercise safely. The sessions were divided into half each session seated learning what we need to do, and what the benefits would be, with the rest in the gym. We were told that should we feel we need to stop and take a break at any time it was OK to do so. Much to my, and others relief.

Once you started, were those concerns allayed? Why’s that?

There was two physiotherapist’s looking after a small group of twelve. Exercises involved treadmill, exercise cycle, small weight lifts, rising from a chair, short steps, a chest band expander, and others. But each exercise was limited to how many we were allowed to do. For instance it might be five minutes on the cycle, and only twelve movements of the chest expander. Although these could be increased as our stamina grew. Blood oxygen saturation was checked on occasions for our safety, and if too low was asked to stop until saturation levels rose again. If we felt any exercise was too hard we were allowed to do only one or two at most of that exercise.

It was amazing how over the six weeks I was on the course I became used to, and able to do more, of each routine. Although like most I did find one routine that was harder for me than the rest.

What would you say is the biggest benefit you gained from pulmonary rehab?

Confidence in my abilities. We were equipped to be more aware of our illness, and how to deal with any problems we might meet. Most importantly it was explained why exercise of any kind is so effective in helping us to breathe better. I never knew we had respiratory muscles that help us to breathe for instance. I came away from my course with a good knowledge of what I need do to keep active – and as well as possible.

Members of the group were all affected to a varying degree by COPD. Some being in a very poor shape and hardly able to walk. After six weeks everyone on the course had improved in both mobility and confidence. Not one said they had gained nothing from it.

What’s one thing you’d say to someone with COPD who’s considering pulmonary rehab?

Do yourself a favour and grab the opportunity with both hands. You will not only improve your health, but your life too. Our bodies are simply not made to not move. And move them we must. Sure it is easy when we find it hard to breathe to think of the easy way out. To sit and do nothing. We are not breathless doing nothing. Right. But sit for long enough and we will deteriorate to the point of getting breathless doing nothing. And this really is the start of the end. You will learn at pulmonary rehabilitation that being breathless while moving is not dangerous.

Many who have entered pulmonary rehabilitation have gone from only being able to take  very few steps to being able to take many more with relative ease. To enjoying time with their families once again. Don’t let being on oxygen put you off either. Several on our course used oxygen during their exercise routines, and benefited enormously from the course.

Pulmonary rehabilitation worked for me. And if you, like me, suffer a lung condition – it could for you too.

The programme itself will vary from state to state, and country too. But be assured whatever programme your Pulmonary Rehab takes it will  offer you the best way to cope with your illness, knowledge to gain fitness, how to breathe easier, and offer a self management plan.

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.


  • Ponyboy
    2 years ago


    Thank you so much for your writings on pulmonary rehab. I will be beginning shortly, and had a lot of concern and questions; your writing helped alleviate a lot of my concern and answered the questions I had. Although I too would like to know what a chest expander is! 🙂
    Thanks again!

  • Linnie
    2 years ago

    The chest expander was mentioned in the Derek Cummings article. I do not know what that is but would like to know.

  • Linnie
    2 years ago

    What is a chest expander that was mentioned in this article?

  • sunshine and rainbows
    4 years ago

    attended rehab several yrs ago and benefited greatly…since then have such SOB that i cannot walk only a few feet til I need to rest and do PLB…have given up on most exercise except what I can do sitting down with 02…the getting to and from rehab does not seem worth the effort and the relying on others….getting too hard to push through…Am I doing enough?….any advice!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 years ago

    Hi Sunshine and Rainbows and welcome. It’s good to hear that you felt a benefit to participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program several years ago. You probably are very much aware that shortness of breath is common for people with COPD. It sounds (to me) like YOU don’t think you’re doing enough. Although we don’t have that much information about you and, for your own safety, we cannot provide medical advice here, it sounds like your symptoms have changed significantly. I say this because things you were used to doing, you cannot do, or find it takes too much effort to do now. If that is the case, I would urge you to follow up with your personal physician. Your condition may have changed and it may be time to be reassessed and reevaluated. In so doing, your doctor can determine if changes can be made in your medication regimen to make you feel more comfortable.
    Please check back with us and let us know how you’re doing. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

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