Bronchiectasis: Everyday Health with Exercise, Nutrition, and Sleep

Posted on December 09, 2020   |   

This post was written by Jane Martin, BA, CRT

In this blog post we talk more about living with bronchiectasis and taking care with three different aspects of your health (and that everybody should keep in mind): exercise, nutrition, and sleep.

This is the fifth in a series of six blog posts to bring more awareness to bronchiectasis and things you can do. Follow these links to read more:

Disclaimer: Always check with your health care provider before making any changes in exercise, activity, or diet.


Exercise training is linked to improvement in exercise ability, shortness of breath, and less fatigue (tiredness) for people with bronchiectasis. It is also shown to be effective in decreasing exacerbations (flare-ups)1. You might be thinking, "Well, that’s fine, but I can’t exercise. I get short of breath just walking to my car!"

If you feel that way, you’re not alone! You should know, though, that exercise is possible. A pulmonary rehabilitation program can help you learn to exercise safely with the guidance of a special team of health care professionals. Some are now offering remote classes. Ask your doctor about referring you to pulmonary rehab.

If pulmonary rehab isn’t feasible, there are things you can do at home. Exercise videos can be found on the COPD Foundation app. Exercise videos can be found on the COPD Foundation Pocket Consultant Guide (PCG) app, which can be downloaded at the App Store or Google Play.

Stretching and flexibility help improve your posture, movement, and breathing. Stretching the right way can reduce muscle soreness brought on by exercise. Flexibility exercise can reduce your chance of falling or being injured.

Strengthening and resistance exercises help build muscle, improve strength, and maintain bone health. You can do this by lifting hand weights, using resistance bands, or working with weight machines.

Endurance and aerobic exercise help improve your ability to continue moving without having to stop often. Walking, biking, rowing, stepping, and swimming are some endurance exercises. This type of exercise can help you walk farther, even if you walk very slowly.

Exercise tips:

  • Always use pursed lips-breathing while doing any exercise or activity.
  • Ask your doctor about the benefits of doing airway clearance, and coordinating with your exercise.
  • If your doctor has recommended you use supplemental oxygen during exertion, ask your oxygen provider to set you up with a portable, lightweight system.


Unplanned weight loss is common in people with bronchiectasis. This weight loss is caused by your body burning more calories than you are able to take in. The effect the weight loss has on you helps to determine your ability to function physically and your overall health. Nutritional supplements add calories and may help improve the muscles that make your lungs work, as well as other muscles you use in exercise and your everyday activities. For some people, a combination of nutritional supplements can make a difference.2 If you have unplanned weight loss, talk with your doctor.

Here are some suggestions for snacks to help you gain or maintain your weight and fuel your activities.

  • Pudding made with whole milk
  • Granola bars
  • Crackers with peanut butter
  • Bagels with cream cheese (whole, not reduced fat)
  • Dried fruits
  • Popcorn with butter and parmesan cheese


We all have an occasional sleepless night — but if you are often not sleeping well and feeling rested, you’re not alone! It is common for people who have both COPD and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) to also have bronchiectasis.3 If you’re wondering if you’re getting the sleep you need, talk with your doctor about having a sleep study. This can help you and your doctor learn about your sleep phases, breathing rates, and oxygen levels while you sleep.

Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.

  1. Stick to a schedule
    The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don't need more than eight hours. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit differences in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour.
  2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink
    Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed. Avoid eating big, heavy meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants – it takes hours for them to wear off. Alcohol might make you feel sleepy, but it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
  3. Create a sleep-friendly environment
    Make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. The air should not be so dry that it dries up your secretions and keeps you from coughing them out. If needed, use room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan, or other white noise device.
  4. Limit daytime naps
    If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid napping late in the day.
  5. Include physical activity in your daily routine
    Regular physical activity and spending time outside can promote better sleep.
  6. Manage worries
    Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Talk with others. Jot down what's on your mind and set it aside for tomorrow.

Continue to watch for the final blog post in our ongoing series on bronchiectasis and you!

This blog post is sponsored by Hillrom.


  1. Lee AL, Hil CJ, Cecins N, Jenkins S, McDonald CF, et al. The short and long term effects of exercise training in non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis – a randomized controlled trial. Respiratory Research. 2014;15:44.
  2. Annemie M.W.J Schols. Pulmonary cachexia. International Journal of Cardiology. 2002;85(1):101-110.
  3. Yang X, Tang X, Cao Y, Dong L, Wang Y, Zhang J, et al. The Bronchiectasis in COPD-OSA Overlap Syndrome Patients. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmonary Disease. 2020;15:605-611.


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  • Great post Jane. Lots of helpful information!

  • Great for all diagnosed with BRONCHIECTOSIS Jane.... thank you ...... >>> QUESTION >>> Is a diagnosis of CYSTIC FIBROSIS the same ??? ( it is also a disease of the lungs causing excess mucus and breathing difficulties ) ????