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Pulmonary Services

Facts about Pulmonary Rehab

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise classes that teaches you about your lungs, how to exercise and do activities with less shortness of breath, and how to "live" better with your lung condition.

How will Pulmonary Rehabilitation help me?
By attending education classes, you will learn many things about your lungs. For example, the following topics will be discussed: what is wrong with your lungs, what your medicines do, when to call your health care provider, and how to keep from being hospitalized. During group meetings, you will meet others with breathing problems. This gives you time share concerns and approaches to living with breathing problems.

The exercise classes will help you be more active with less shortness of breath. Usually, you will be exercising both your arms and legs. The exercise classes will help you feel better and become stronger by helping you get into better shape.

What should I look for in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program?
You should look for a program that is designed for people with lung problems. The program should be run by health care providers who have experience in caring for people with chronic lung conditions. The classes may be in a group setting or customized for the needs of one person. In either case, the classes should be tailored to your needs.

What is the cost of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program?
The cost of a pulmonary rehabilitation program can vary greatly depending on where you live. If more than one program is available in your area, compare the costs and the services offered.

Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation covered by insurance?
Insurance coverage is different between rehabilitation programs and insurance policies. Contact your insurance company or speak to the staff about program coverage.

Can I enter Pulmonary Rehabilitation if I smoke?
Some programs offer help with quitting smoking as part of the pulmonary rehabilitation program. Others require that you stop smoking before beginning the program. Rehabilitation and medications cannot reverse the damage caused by smoking. If you smoke, make a serious effort to quit. Get help if needed. Stopping smoking is an important part of getting stronger and healthier.

How do I enroll in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program?
Begin by talking to your health care provider about your interest in pulmonary rehabilitation. He or she can give you a referral to a program.

What happens after I finish the program?
What you learn and practice during the program should carry over into your daily life after the program ends. If you stop exercising after the program, the improvements you made will soon be lost. The staff will work with you to design a long-term plan of exercise for you. The staff will guide you how and when to exercise at home. Many programs offer a "maintenance" plan so that you can continue to exercise with others with breathing problems.

What if I can't afford Pulmonary Rehabilitation or a program isn't available in my community?
If you don't have a program in your area, there are many things you can do on your own. Your quality of life can be improved by stopping smoking, learning how to correctly use inhaled medicines, and exercising regularly. Below is a simple exercise plan for a person with a lung condition. Talk with your health care provider, however, before starting an exercise plan.

One of the most important exercises for someone with lung problems is walking regularly. Begin walking slowly at a very comfortable pace for a period of time (say 5 to 10 minutes daily), 3 to 5 days a week. Do not increase the time you are walking until you can walk the entire time without stopping. When you can walk without stopping to rest, increase the time you are walking by 1 to 2 minutes each week. For example, if you can walk nonstop for 5 minutes a day for five days in one week, increase your walking to 7 minutes each day. Many people with severe lung disease can reach the goal of walking 30 minutes without stopping. Some people with lung problems require oxygen during exercise. If you have been prescribed oxygen for regular use, be sure to use it with exercise. If you aren't sure about using oxygen, talk with your health care provider. Some of the resources listed below may help you either find a program or provide you with more information about lung conditions.

Resources for finding the right Pulmonary Rehabilitation program
Pulmonary Rehabilitation programs are found in many parts of the world. There are both national and state organizations and societies that can help you find a program, and information about your breathing problem.

Groups to contact for finding a program in the United States are:
  • American Lung Association, telephone 1-800-LUNGUSA, or www.lungusa.org or contact your State or local chapter of the Lung Association.
  • American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), telephone 312-644-6610 or www.aacvpr.org (go to "program directory")
Other places to contact information about lung disease:
Developed by: Pulmonary Rehabilitation Section
Nursing Assembly
American Thoracic Society


Copyright © 2002 American Thoracic Society

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