Education and exercise

“I get breathless when I walk so why should I exercise?”

People who have chronic lung conditions are often less active and can lose their fitness and muscle strength.  By exercising regularly, a person’s fitness and muscle strength can be maintained or improved.

Exercising for about half an hour on 5 days a week  performing activities such as walking or stationary cycling, can improve the health of people with chronic lung conditions.  As a result they will feel better and stay well.

Walking is one of the most important aspects of an exercise program for lung health and should be combined with some strength training for the arms and legs.

Regular exercise will help to:

  • Improve your ability to do the activities needed for every day tasks
  • Reduce your breathlessness
  • Improve your arm, body and leg muscle strength
  • Clear mucus (or sputum) from your chest
  • Improve your balance
  • Improve your mood and make you feel more in control
  • Make you more independent
  • Assist your weight control
  • Improve your bone density 1
  • Reduce the need for hospital admission.

Before starting an exercise program, it is important to speak to your doctor or respiratory specialist to ensure you are medically clear to exercise.

Enrolling in a hospital or community health centre based pulmonary rehabilitation program is one of the best steps toward improving your health. Health professionals will teach you appropriate exercises and how to pace yourself and how to coordinate your breathing with movements, in addition to providing you with other information.  Pulmonary rehabilitation also prepares you for home exercise programs or community based group exercise maintenance classes.

Group exercise programs such as Lungs in Action are an excellent way for people who lack motivation to find encouragement to continue their exercise after a pulmonary rehabilitation program.  It also provides social interaction and continued support.  Lungs in Action is an exercise maintenance program designed for people with stable chronic lung conditions or heart failure who have completed a pulmonary or heart failure rehabilitation program.

For people with moderate to severe COPD, a weekly community-based exercise maintenance class, supervised by a trained fitness instructor or exercise physiologist, combined with a home exercise program is an effective intervention for maintaining improvements following pulmonary rehabilitation. 2,3Therefore, to maintain the health benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation, it is very important to keep exercising. If your exercise program stops, you will lose fitness and muscle strength very quickly.



  1.  Queensland Health Statewide Respiratory Clinical Network and The Australian Lung Foundation. (2012).
    Better Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Patient Guide (2nd Edition). Brisbane,
    Queensland, Australia: The Australian Lung Foundation.
  2. Ries AL, Bauldoff GS, Carlin BW, Casaburi R, Emery CF, Mahler DA, et al. Pulmonary
    Rehabilitation: Joint ACCP/AACVPR Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines.
    Chest. 2007 May; 131(5 Suppl): 4S-42S.
  3. Spencer, L., Alison, J., & McKeough, Z. (2010). Maintaining benefits following pulmonary rehabilitation: a randomised controlled trial. European Respiratory Journal , 35 (3), 571-577.