Exercise & Lung Conditions

Lung conditions do not discriminate; they affect men, women, children, smokers, non-smokers, and people who have never smoked. Lung disease in Australia is common and often underestimated.


There are many lung conditions including but not limited to: COPD, Lung Cancer, Asthma, Bronchiectasis, Interstitial Lung diseases, Pleural Mesothelioma, Cystic Fibrosis and Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH).


Why it’s important to exercise


People who have a chronic lung condition are often less active and can lose their fitness and muscle strength. By exercising regularly, a person’s fitness and muscle strength can be maintained or improved.


Exercising for more than two hours per week performing activities such as walking or cycling, can improve the health of people with chronic lung conditions. As a result they will feel better and stay well.


People who exercise regularly can reduce their need for hospital admission. Walking is one of the most important aspects of an exercise program for respiratory health and should be combined with some weight or resistance based upper and lower limb exercises.

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Exercise will help to:


  • Improve your breathing
  • Clear mucus (or sputum) from your chest
  • Reduce your breathlessness during daily activities
  • Make your heart stronger and healthier
  • Increase the number of activities that you are able to do each day or each week
  • Improve your balance
  • Improve your mood and make you feel more in control
  • Make you more independent
  • Assist your weight control

Things to remember:


  • Inspiratory muscle weakness is a contributor to exercise intolerance and dyspnoea in patients with lung disease. Training inspiratory muscles to resist fatigue through muscular endurance training can assist with reducing the decline in capacity and increasing exercise capacity. This will also assist in decreasing an individual’s sensitivity to dyspnoea.
  • Patients with moderate to severe COPD may experience oxyhemoglobin desaturation with exercise, thus oximetry is recommended for initial exercise training and depending in the level of oxygen desaturation, oxygen supplementation may be required in the early stages of exercise.
  • Persons with asthma should use inhaled bronchodilator therapy prior to exercise to reduce risk of exercise induced bronchoconstriction.
  • Persons with asthma or COPD should always have a reliever e.g. Ventolin with them throughout exercise.

Types of exercises recommended


Exercise Right recommends intermittent exercise at a low intensity until you can tolerate a longer exercise duration. This could include simple exercises such as walking or cycling.


Resistance training and flexibility exercises such as Tai chi, stretching exercises of the chest and neck, strengthening exercises in low weight and high repetition of the upper, lower body and core muscles are also recommended to help you improve your functional capacity and quality of life.




Doctor or Respiratory Specialist

Before embarking upon an exercise program, it is important to speak to your doctor or respiratory specialist to ensure you are medically clear to exercise. Enrolling in a pulmonary rehabilitation program is one of the best steps toward to improving your health if you suffer from a chronic lung condition, and have been medically cleared. It is proven to decrease hospital admissions and length of stay in hospital for those living with COPD.


Accredited Exercise Physiologist

For those living with a lung condition it is recommended you consult an appropriately trained exercise professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be able to tailor an exercise program to suit your current health status and lung condition.


Pulmonary Rehabilitation followed by a regular maintenance exercise program tailored and supported by an exercise professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologists has been proven to keep people with a chronic lung condition well and out of hospital.


Many of these programs are delivered by exercise professionals such as an accredited exercise physiologist. Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a comprehensive program that combines both exercise and education, and prepares you to commence a home exercise program and ongoing community based maintenance exercise programs.




Indoor exercise or a gym

Exercise Right recommends exercise indoors or in a humidity-controlled environment, such as a gym.


Exercise induced asthma (EIA) is difficult especially in the winter months due to the cold, dry air. Inspiring cold dry air causes an increase in bronchoconstrictors, leading to an over action of the smooth muscle in the bronchioles, leading to an asthma attack.

It is important for you to work with an AEP to develop the right warm up to help reduce your EIA.




Exercise in the morning

To reduce the incidence of an associated reaction from COPD or asthma, the most suitable time for you to exercise is late to mid-morning.