capturePulmonary rehabilitation is a program of exercise, education, and support to help you learn to breathe—and function—at the highest level possible. Generally patients who participate in pulmonary rehabilitation improve their ability to exercise and can be more active with less shortness of breath.

At pulmonary rehabilitation you’ll work with a team of specialists who will help you improve your physical condition. You will also learn how to manage your COPD so you will stay healthy and active long after you complete the course.

In order to qualify for pulmonary rehabilitation, you have to be referred by your doctor and have spirometry test results within the past year that show you have underlying lung disease such as COPD or pulmonary fibrosis.

Your rehabilitation team will take a complete health history, talk with you about your current level of activity, and help you set goals for what is most important to you. You will exercise as they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level. Don’t worry if you can’t walk very far! That is why you are going to PR. Pulmonary rehabilitation professionals are experts at working with people with severe shortness of breath, and they’ll make sure you’re safe.

You may only be able to start out exercising at a slow pace, even for only a minute or two. That’s okay. If you need supplemental oxygen you can use it. Your oxygen level, heart rate, and blood pressure will be monitored so you can exercise safely and effectively. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish!

At pulmonary rehabilitation, you will also learn about: breathing techniques, medications, nutrition, relaxation, oxygen, travel, how to do everyday tasks with less shortness of breath, and how to stay healthy and avoid COPD exacerbations. You’ll also learn how to cope with the changes that often come with COPD – depression, panic, anxiety, and others. A bonus is that you’ll also meet people with COPD who have many of the same experiences, questions and feelings that you do.

PR also can benefit people who need lung surgery, both before and after the surgery.

PR doesn’t replace medical therapy. Instead, it’s used with medical therapy and may include:

  • Exercise training
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Education on your lung disease or condition and how to manage it
  • Energy-conserving techniques
  • Breathing strategies
  • Psychological counseling and/or group support

PR involves a long-term commitment from the patient and a team of health care providers. The PR team may include doctors, nurses, and specialists. Examples of specialists include respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and psychologists or social workers.

PR often is an outpatient. Some patients also can receive PR in their homes.

When you start PR, your rehab team will create a plan that’s tailored to your abilities and needs. You’ll likely attend your PR program weekly. Your team also will expect you to follow your plan, including exercises and lifestyle changes, at home. Often there is a maintence program you can join to continue enjoying the benefits of PR.

Expense: This is certainly an issue for all patients with chronic illness. There are programs available to assist with Copayments for Pulmonary rehabilitation. The best thing to do is to ask the Rehab facility for information regarding these programs.

To learn more about the Pulmonary Rehabilitation process, check out these additional patient resources from the AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CARDIOVASCULAR AND PULMONARY REHABILITATION (AACVPR). You can also watch a fantastic COPD Pulmonary Rehab video for free from their website. You can also visit


Adapted from AACVPR and