What are other options besides Pulmonary Rehab?

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Dear COPD Coach,
What can I do if I can’t afford Pulmonary Rehabilitation? What are my options?

–Exercise Options

Hi Exercise,

Many people in our community face that same obstacle, and there are some alternatives available to you! While going to a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program is by far the best alternative, you can always exercise from home whether you are chair-bound or able to walk about.

First , it is very important that you check with your doctor and get an official OK for exercise. If you do, a great place to start is with the COPD Foundation’s PCG (Pocket Consultant Guide) App available through your app store. It is a free tool that has a section containing exercise videos that are geared toward those living with COPD. Another resource you might consider is the Sit and Be Fit program which is also specifically designed for COPD.

Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. It’s easiest if you have a good, safe path for walking or, if weather is a problem, a good indoor location. Shopping malls often have regular walking clubs to help folks get exercise and enjoy being with others. If it is OK with your doctor and if they have given you instruction, you might obtain a pulse oximeter so that you keep track of your oxygen saturation when walking about. It may seem easy to use a pulse oximeter, but you must understand how to interpret the numbers in order to exert yourself safely!

Many senior centers have regular exercise programs you can join for free or at a small charge. Perhaps your library has DVDs of chair exercises or strength training for seniors.

In addition to exercise, the educational portion of Pulmonary Rehabilitation involves such things as learning to breathe correctly, how to take your medications, healthy eating for COPD, managing depression and tips for daily living and understanding your COPD. Most of this material is also readily available on the internet.

"If you don’t use it, you do lose it" so it is important to get a routine set up—and maintain it. You can also join 360social to find others who are in a similar situation and are incorporating exercise into their lives.

Another tidbit: many Pulmonary Rehabs have scholarship programs. It would definitely be worth your time to call around and see if any are offered in your area. We hope these suggestions will be helpful to you and good luck with your self-managed program!

Thanks for writing,
The COPD Coach

Coaches Corner is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to The COPD Coach.


This article was reviewed by Senior Director of Community Engagement and COPD360social Community Manager, Bill Clark, as well as certified staff Respiratory Therapists on January 31, 2020.


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  • Dr Noah Greenspan on you tube has great rehab videos. Lots of information and tips for those with COPD.
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  • Assuming you get your doc's okay to begin an exercise program, do your own. You can walk on your own, and with current GPS available on every smart phone, it doesn't take much to get it started complete with mileage and if you keep your time, you can figure out how fast you're walking. Map out a route you can do without stopping and then add to it a little bit at a time. You want to build endurance initially, so you're going for time without stopping and shooting for 30 minutes as your first goal. After that you can add time, distance or speed. You can do weight work at home as well, using a swiss ball or an elastic rope with handles. You want to do exercises that work upper, lower and core muscle groups. If you need company, find a friend who will go with you. Join one of many on-line groups where people share their daily exercise to encourage each other.
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