Pulmonary rehabilitation

The page talks about pulmonary rehabilitation. For more information, you can also see our Essential Guide to Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PDF).


Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is an exercise and education programme for people living with a long-term chest condition that affects their every day life. For example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis. It is designed to improve your level of fitness and quality of life and can help you manage your symptoms better.

PR programmes:

  • are run by a team of trained health professionals
  • usually last for 6 to 12 weeks
  • are usually based in the community, making them easy to get to
  • include exercises, information and support
  • are small in size
  • teach you how to better control and cope with your symptoms.

What are the benefits?

PR has lots of benefits for both your physical and mental health. Going to PR can help you to:

  • feel less breathless
  • get stronger
  • improve your fitness
  • feel less anxious about your condition
  • increase your confidence
  • learn how to manage chest infections
  • improve your overall quality of life.

"The best thing I did was my Pulmonary Rehabilitation classes. I was able to go back to work, and it helped give me more confidence to cope with my condition and stay well."

What happens at PR classes?

You will be helped to do 'endurance work' like walking or using an exercise bike and 'strength work' like using weights to help strengthen your arms and legs. For this, you should wear loose comfortable clothing and comfortable flat shoes such as trainers. All activities will be supervised so you feel safe and comfortable.

As well as exercise, PR classes will include information to help you better understand your condition. You might talk about breathing and relaxation techniques, how to manage chest infections or ways to cope with breathlessness at home and outside.

Not all PR programmes are the same. They may be different lengths or include different exercises or education topics. However, everything you do will be adapted to make sure it is safe and right for you.

How will I know how much I can do?

Before starting the programme, your fitness and level of ability will be assessed. During the assessment you will be asked questions about your breathlessness and how it affects you. You may also be asked to do a short walking test. The results of the assessment will then be used to decide the right level of exercise for you and what exercises are best.

Who is PR suitable for?

PR is suitable for people who have breathing difficulties caused by a chest condition that affects their ability to do normal activities and live a normal life. If there is a class in your area you may get referred by your GP, nurse, physiotherapist or hospital consultant. Ask one of these health professionals if you think PR could help you.