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    What Is Pulmonary Rehab for COPD?

    When you’re living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD, everyday activities such as walking or climbing stairs can get harder. That’s where pulmonary rehabilitation comes in.

    Basically, it’s a formal program that will build your fitness and help you breathe as well as you possibly can. Pulmonary rehab will help you with:

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    To join a program, you’ll probably need a referral from your doctor and a test that shows you’ve had COPD in the past year.

    You might work with a team of specialists -- ranging from dietitians to social workers -- who will figure out the best plan for your case. It’s often done on an outpatient basis, meaning you will not check in anywhere, at a hospital or clinic. Or you may get it at your home.

    Learn more about the most important features of these programs:


    The key to any pulmonary rehab program for COPD is exercise, which will help your lungs and heart work better.

    Here’s some more about these exercises, which may be one-on-one with a trainer or in a group:

    Lower body: Most rehab centers offer a set of exercises that center on leg workouts. They vary from simply walking on a treadmill or around a track to more intense stair climbing. Most of the proven benefits of pulmonary rehab are shown in studies of people doing leg exercises.

    Upper body: The muscles in the upper body are important for breathing, as well as for daily activities. Arm and chest exercises might include turning a crank against resistance or just lifting your arms against gravity.

    Breathing: Blowing through a mouthpiece against resistance may increase the strength of your breathing muscles. These exercises may be helpful for people with very weak breathing muscles.

    Strength training: Most pulmonary rehab exercises focus on building endurance. Adding strength training, such as lifting weights, has been shown to be helpful as well.

    Educate Yourself

    Many pulmonary rehab programs offer group or one-on-one education sessions to help you learn to better manage your COPD. Sessions might focus on things such as:

    • Understanding your medication treatment plan. This includes using your inhaler the right way and using it regularly.
    • How to get the most out of oxygen therapy if you are using this treatment
    • If you’re a smoker, help with quitting
    • Eating a healthy diet

    Studies show that people who learn about their COPD and treatment plan are better able to spot symptoms of a flare-up and take the right action.

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