Chest Information and Support > Looking after yourself > Keeping active with a chest condition

Keeping active with a chest condition

If you have a chest illness, you may be afraid that exercise will make you more breathless, or that being breathless may harm you. This isn’t true! One of the best things you can do to manage your condition is to be as physically active as possible.

Regular exercise will improve your breathing, help ease your symptoms  and help you have a better quality of life. It will also increase your strength and general fitness. This will make everyday activities less tiring and less demanding of your energy. Physical activity can also improve your mood.


Tips to help you with your breathing during activity

To improve your activity level you need to be able to stay in control of your breathing. The following tips can help you improve your breathing while being active.

  • Aim to be no more than moderately breathless in whatever you are doing. You should be able to talk a little as you exercise; if you can’t you need to slow down. This will mean that you can be active but still in control of your breathing and you can recover comfortably when you stop.
  • Exhale on effort / don’t hold your breath. If you hold your breath during the most strenuous part of a movement, it can make you more breathless. Instead, breathe out as you get up from sitting, as you push and pull a vacuum, as you bend down to pick something up and also as you stand up again.
  • Move to the rhythm of your breathing. Tune in to your breathing rate and time your steps as you walk, for example ‘in for 2 steps and out for 6’.

Build things up slowly!

Being active really helps my COPD. I now make sure I have the time to do some form of physical activity every day

What form of activity you do depends on your condition and symptoms. It is advisable to check with your GP before you start any new programme of activity.

  • Start with gentle exercise, e.g. walking.
  • Pace yourself and build up your activity level gradually.
  • Try and do some form of physical activity every day.
  • Take your time, practice breathing control and remember that you are in control.

Your doctor who may be able to refer you to a respiratory physiotherapist for individual help / advice or refer you for pulmonary rehabilitation. You might also want to find out about exercise groups in your area for people with the same condition as you. To find out if there is a CHSS Peer Support Group in your area call the Advice Line Nurses on 0808 801 0899.

For more information, see our Essential Guide to Physical Activity (PDF).
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