Why Pulmonary Rehabilitation is Important for People with COPD or Asthma.

March 17, 2023
Andrew Gallagher
6 Min Read

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Pulmonary Rehabilitation(PR) or Pulmonary Rehab is a program that includes exercise training, health education and breathing techniques for people with lung conditions (such as asthma or COPD) and lung problems due to other conditions.

Related article: What is COPD?

Goals of Pulmonary Rehab

  • Increase confidence and ability to cope with shortness of breath(SOB)
  • To increase strength and ability to walk/exercise
  • To increase quality of life
  • Help reduce risk of hospital admissions


PR can help you breathe easier and improve your quality of life for certain lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pulmonary hypertension and cystic fibrosis (CF). It can also improve daily life for people who have scoliosis or other heath problems that impact lung function. PR can also be of benefit to people before and after surgery for a lung transplant or lung cancer.

PR can help you gain strength, making it easier to manage routine actives, work and social outings that you enjoy. In turn this can help you battle symptoms of anxiety and depression that are associated with your disease.

PR usually happens in the hospital or the clinic, occasionally you may learn physical therapy or breathing exercises to do at home. You may also use activity monitors or smartphone based lessons and monitoring. Your program will be designed by your team of healthcare providers based on your needs.

PR has very few risks. Rarely, physical activity during the program can cause problems for a patient such as injuries. If you are prone to injury or have a past injury you should inform your care team.

Your Health Care Team

Your health care team will include doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians and psychologists.

To design your pulmonary rehabilitation plan, your healthcare team may do a series of tests, such as pulmonary function testing and fitness testing.

Related article: What is Spirometry?

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program

Typically, your program will cover the following topics . Each of these will be personalised to you by your care team and will be adjusted to you as you progress through the program.

  • Breathing Techniques - You will learn specific techniques such as pursed lip breathing, yoga breathing, or breathing with computer aided feedback. These techniques can help you better control your breathing and avoid feeling out of breath, especially when you are physically active or under stress. You may also learn ways to help clear mucus from your lungs.
  • Education - You can get questions answered about lung disease and received guidance on how to manage your disease. You may learn how your lungs work and effective ways to take your medicine. You may learn to recognize the signs of a flare-up early and develop a plan to avoid or manage one. If you smoke, your team may be able to help you quit. You may learn how to conserve your energy and avoid feeling short of breath by finding easier ways to do daily tasks. This may include ways to avoid reaching, lifting, and bending, or ways to avoid or relieve stress.
  • Psychological counseling - People who have a chronic lung disease may also experience depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Individual or group support can offer training in stress management.
  • Exercise training - Exercise aims to strengthen your core, back arms and legs as well as internal muscles that help you breathe. This can also help you build stamina and mobility, allowing you to do everyday tasks and the things you enjoy. Your healthcare team may recommend using medicine to open your airways during activity.
  • Nutritional Counseling - You will learn what foods to eat, how best to prepare your meals to manage your condition and feel your best. Nutritional counselling can help ensure you are getting the right nutrients in the right amounts. You may also be recommended a weight-loss plan or nutritional supplements or medicines to help you build muscle.


PR programs are usually two or three weekly sessions lasting a few weeks or months. At the end of the program you will be assessed for change over the course of the program. Pulmonary Rehabilitation gives you the best results if you continue to do the exercises and use the skills you learn long after you’ve completed the program. The staff will design a long-term plan for you – be sure to follow it.


After PR users have experienced few symptoms, like less cough and less shortness of breath. Users have reported improvements in quality of life and more positive feelings about their conditions. One report shows that people who completed pulmonary rehab spent on average 5 days less in hospital than those who did not in the proceeding 180 days. Typically, patients say they have improved ability to exercise and are more knowledgeable on how to manage their condition.

"‘Pulmonary rehabilitation is the most beneficial treatment I have received… not only for the exercise provided but more importantly for the education given." - Colin

Most of all PR builds confidence for patients and equips them with tools needed to combat their condition.


PR in Ireland - https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/hl/selfmanagement/donegal/programmes-services/pulmonary-rehabilitation/

PR in the UK - https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/keep-active/pulmonary-rehabilitation

PR in the US - https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/pulmonary-rehabilitation

PR in Canada - https://www.lung.ca/search/node/pulmonary%20rehab

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