Pulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a programme of progressive exercise and education supervised by a physiotherapist over six weeks, twice a week, for people with COPD. 

How is pulmonary rehabilitation beneficial?

Research has shown that when people have COPD, they become progressively more unfit with increasing muscle weakness and shortness of breath. 

In COPD breathlessness can be frightening and uncomfortable and so you may naturally try to avoid activities which make you breathless. A vicious cycle can result.

This can then make it more difficult for you to do the activities you used to do and so may reduce your quality of life. 

How will pulmonary rehabilitation help me?

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help by:

  • reducing your breathlessness,
  • increasing the muscle strength in you arms and legs,
  • increasing your stamina and endurance,
  • giving you a better understanding of your condition,
  • increasing your confidence in your own abilities to control your symptoms, such as breathlessness,
  • increasing independence in your everyday life,
  • improving your health related quality of life.   

How does the pulmonary rehabilitation programme run?

The programme is supervised by a qualified physiotherapist.

Up to eight people, all with COPD, participate in each programme.

The programme in Southampton General Hospital is conducted over 6 weeks with two sessions per week.

Each of the 12 sessions are split into 2 parts, 1 hour exercise, and 1 hour education, plus a tea break.

Before attending the course you will be invited to attend the physiotherapy department for an assessment. This will include a walking test.You will then start on the programme if you wish to.

You will be expected to participate in a home exercise programme along side the pulmonary rehabilitation programme. This will be discussed with you. 

What happens once I have finished the course?

You will be actively encouraged to continue with exercise to maintain and improve your general fitness.

There are several ways in which this can be achieved, including:

  • home exercise programmes;
  • attending Active Options at a local gym facility;
  • attending the maintenance course run in the community by the COPD team.

We will discuss these options with you while you are attending the programme.

We also encourage people with COPD to join the local Breathe-Easy group, held monthly in Southampton, run by others with lung disease and supported by the British Lung Foundation.

Between 6 and 8 months after completion of the programme, the physiotherapist will contact you to discuss any problems or issues you may have regarding exercise or your COPD in general.