Nothing But The Truth: Myths About Pulmonary Rehab or Exercise

Posted on March 25, 2022   |   

This post was authored by Christina Hunt, BS, RRT.

Ask the experts and they will tell you that exercise is an important part of feeling your best when you have COPD, bronchiectasis, and other lung conditions. There are so many benefits to exercising. Exercise is known to help with anxiety and depression, which is common in people living with a lung condition. Exercise has also been linked to a better quality of life. Doing activities that increase your strength and fitness can help you do everyday tasks with less breathlessness.

This month we have taken some time to review pulmonary rehab (rehabilitation), which is a wellness program created specifically for people with lung conditions like COPD, bronchiectasis, and NTM lung disease. Pulmonary rehab programs combine what people living with these conditions need the most: exercise, support, and education. Pulmonary rehab can help improve your fitness level and allow you to enjoy your favorite activities. It can also be a wonderful tool to build confidence with exercising on your own.

Knowing all the wonderful things that pulmonary rehab and exercise can do for the body, it is a wonder why there are so many myths about exercise and pulmonary rehab. In this blog, I am going to review some common myths or untruths about exercising and pulmonary rehab. The best part is that I am going to give you “nothing but the truth.” So, let's get into it!

Myth: People with lung conditions like COPD should not exercise because it will make them short of breath.

The truth: There is no doubt that shortness of breath can be one of the biggest barriers to exercising. Frankly, it can be scary to feel breathless when you are exercising. However, when you choose to exercise, you build strength that will help you with your favorite activities and chores around the house like carrying a laundry basket, bathing, and vacuuming. Pulmonary rehab can help to build confidence in managing your shortness of breath while exercising. Pulmonary rehab can teach you skills like how to recover quickly and how to safely increase your activity. Avoiding exercise can weaken your body and therefore make you feel more breathless. The less you do now, the less you are able to do later.

Myth: Your motto should be “no pain, no gain.”

The truth: When you are motivated to exercise, it is understandable that you might want to push hard. However, if you are not used to exercising, I would recommend taking things slow and steady. When you start exercising slowly, you can focus on your technique and help avoid injury. You do not want to push too hard and hurt yourself. Doing too much exercise can cause soreness or injuries to your muscles. A small amount of soreness is fine, but too much soreness can cause you to avoid exercise for days. Exercising should not feel painful. If you have pain with movement, stop immediately and talk to your health care team. They may offer you some other options for exercise. Pushing through the pain might cause you to do more harm than good.

Myth: Exercise is expensive and takes a long time.

The truth: You do not have to spend hours in a gym to get in shape. There are a lot of different exercises that you can do around the house that would help increase your fitness. Build your strength by using soup cans or large bottles of ketchup as weights as you start your exercise routine. Consider doing more repetitions as you build your strength. Once you have an exercise routine in place, you can ask your health care team about adding weights or other exercises.

You can also try cardio exercise, which includes walking, dancing, and climbing stairs. For beginners, you can start by walking in place for several minutes at a time. As you increase your fitness, try walking for an extra minute or two. As you build your confidence, you can try other activities like walking outside or exercising with a buddy.

Myth: If I lift weights, I will look bulky like a bodybuilder.

The truth: Building strength is an important part of your fitness. You need strong muscles to do everyday tasks. One task that can be hard for people with COPD is carrying heavy objects. Increasing the strength in your upper body will help make this task easier. Lifting light weights will help you achieve that goal. People with big, bulky muscles often lift extremely heavy weights and eat foods that are loaded with protein. If you are concerned about starting a strength training routine, check with your health care team. They will often suggest starting with light weights and low repetitions.

I hope that I have cleared up a few myths that you may have had about exercising and pulmonary rehab. Sticking to an exercise routine will help you to reduce shortness of breath and feel your best. I have found that exercise can be a wonderful way of connecting with people. Whether you walk with a friend or try a yoga class, having a buddy makes exercising fun and encourages you to stick with it.


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  • Great article, Christina! I think it's really important for people to understand how important activity and exercise can be, and pulmonary rehab is a great way to get started. There's a lot of fantastic advice in this post to guide people who don't have access to a good PR program, too!
    • Thanks, Mike! I agree about how important it is for activity and exercise. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started!
  • Thank you, Christina, for clearing up these myths about exercise and pulmonary rehab with "nothing but the truth," and for reminding us that exercise and pulmonary rehab can be painless, positive, and empowering!

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Christina! Were it not for the COPDF and my peers recommending pulmonary rehabilitation, I would probably not have been aware of the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation. It has made a huge difference for me... I can do so much more without becoming short of breath, and it has also helped lessen the fatigue greatly!
    I am a strong advocate for pulmonary rehab, and am always recommending to my fellow COPDers. I also am very excited to see all the new programs offering at home programs that are intensely monitored and utilizing new technology to do so.
    Thank goodness, I never believed any of those myths!
    • I am so glad that you recommend pulmonary rehab! I think everyone with COPD could benefit from the education and guidance that it provides. I have made lifelong friends working in PR. I saw firsthand the support that it provided to so many people coping with the diagnosis.
  • Thank you for the wonderful post. Exercise is our best friend ever.

  • Great information. Thanks Christina
  • Excellent article and thanks.
  • Thank you Christina I agree with everyone GREAT ARTICLE. Hope to see this article in some support group settings. Again Thank you.
  • Great article! Thank you! Exercise is the best medicine for our bodies and minds. Pulmonary rehab is a great starting point for many respiratory patients.