5 Tips as you start Pulmonary Rehabilitation for COPD

5 Tips as You Begin Pulmonary Rehabilitation for COPD

Pulmonary Rehabilitation has many benefits for people with COPD and chronic lung conditions. It helps improve quality of day-to-day life, teaches self-care skills, increases exercise capacity, reduces anxiety and depression, and decreases the symptoms of COPD.

Like many exercise and education programs, pulmonary rehabilitation requires commitment and attending 2 to 3 sessions every week for 8 to 12 weeks.  Although the improvements may be slow and you may not feel a difference from one day to the next, when you look back at the mid-point or the end of pulmonary rehabilitation you can see how far you have progressed.  

Here are 5 tips for you as you begin your Pulmonary Rehabilitation program.

  1. Having a purpose

Ask yourself, what matters to you and why do you want to get better? Some would like to enjoy playing with their grandkids or enjoy outdoor trips with their loved ones. Some want to be active and take care of their chores much easily. Some want to be there for an important event. And some want more control of their life. What’s your reason? 

Set a compelling goal that matters to you and where you want to be by the end of the program.

  1. Knowing your numbers

While you are participating in pulmonary rehabilitation, it is a good time to get familiar with your COPD, your abilities, and how you are progressing. Know how much distance you can walk before stopping; what levels of exercise you are doing in each session; and for how long. You can notice some progress in increasing the time or the intensity of exercise. Also measure how short of breath you feel using BORG score from 1-10 and how much time it takes for you to recover. You may start noticing improvements in these numbers within a few weeks.

Keep in mind that some days may be better than others as your COPD symptoms can fluctuate day-to-day. So don’t get discouraged if you are having a bad day. It’s the overall trend that matters more. For some folks its more about their feeling of control and confidence than exercise capacity. 

  1. Apply breathing techniques

Breath control and breathing re-training are important parts of self-management. Learn and apply the breathing techniques such as pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing. These techniques help reduce shortness of breath and anxiety. Apply them during rehab sessions and during daily routine. The more you practice the better you get.

Watch my videos on our Instagram page to practice these techniques. Also check out our PEP-buddy device for better and controlled breathing.

  1. Comprehensive care

Pulmonary Rehabilitation impacts different aspects of health. Better breathing and exercise help improve blood pressure, diabetes, muscle and bone health, and mood. The education sessions will help you better understand the different aspect of COPD care. Get to know your inhalers and medicines. Keep a note of your oxygen levels when you are resting and when you are exercising. When to stop and when to use extra oxygen.  This is a good time to improve your lifestyle for a healthier living, practice mindfulness, and even quit smoking. You will also learn how to avoid infections and what to do in case of COPD flare up.

  1. Have fun

Lastly and importantly, enjoy your journey! You will meet others who share similar challenges as you do, and staff who is dedicated to help you succeed. Learn and share knowledge, support and encourage each other, and don’t forget to celebrate wins and have fun!

I wish you the very best in your journey to better breathing and better living! Once you experience it yourself, encourage others as well.


Written by: Dr Muhammad Ahsan Zafar, MD, MS

(Dr Zafar is an Associate Professor and a Pulmonary & Critical care specialist at University of Cincinnati, USA. He is also the co-inventor of PEP Buddy. He was the past medical director of pulmonary rehabilitation programs at University of Cincinnati)

PEP Buddy - your personal breathing coach: https://pepbuddy.com/

Live your life with COPD: http://www.LiveYourLifeWithCOPD.com