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Pulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a combined programme of education and monitored exercise designed for people with chronic lung diseases like chronic obstructive disease (COPD), asthma or IPF.1 Your physician may prescribe pulmonary rehabilitation as an addition to other types of care to help improve your symptoms and overall well-being.1

Enrolling in a pulmonary rehabilitation programme has many benefits: It may help you manage your breathing problems better, enhance your energy levels, improve your quality of life and outlook on the disease, increase your ability to perform daily activities and perhaps even exercise with less breathlessness.2–4

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a broad, comprehensive programme that uses a combination of exercising, teaching, and counselling, including:2,3

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  • Physical conditioning
  • Exercise training and breathing exercises
  • Anxiety, stress, and depression management
  • Advice and support to improve nutrition
  • Education on the disease

Pulmonary rehabilitation programmes are generally run by a multidisciplinary team consisting of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, dieticians, and other healthcare specialists and can be carried out at your home, community, or local hospital.

The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to provide you with education, skills, and tools to improve your disease management, take control of your individual symptoms, and increase your participation in social and physical activities of daily living.5

The amount of time it takes to complete a pulmonary rehabilitation program can vary depending on your symptoms and overall health. When you start pulmonary rehabilitation, your healthcare team will create an exercise plan to meet your individual needs. Even if your disease has reached an advanced stage, you can still benefit from a pulmonary rehabilitation programme that is specifically tailored to your abilities and the severity of your condition.1

Overall, it is important to carry on exercising even after completing your rehabilitation programme. Many courses offer a long-term exercise plan to help maintain all of the benefits you gained through pulmonary rehabilitation.

How does pulmonary rehabilitation work? What do I have to expect?

Expert video:  How does pulmonary rehabilitation work? What do I have to expect?


  1. What Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation? - NHLBI, NIH. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2016.
  2. Raghu G., et al. An official ATS/ERS/JRS/ALAT statement: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: evidence-based guidelines for diagnosis and management. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2011;183:788–824.
  3. Cottin V., et al. Diagnosis and management of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: French practical guidelines. Eur Respir Rev Off J Eur Respir Soc 2014;23:193–214.
  4. Dowman L., et al. Pulmonary rehabilitation for interstitial lung disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2014;10:CD006322.
  5. Kenn K., et al. Pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis--a review. Respir Int Rev Thorac Dis 2013;86:89–99.

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