NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Pulmonary Rehabilitation

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and educational program designed to help people living with lung conditions, including COPD. It aims to help increase physical ability, reduce symptom impact and improve quality of life. It has been proven to have significant health benefits for people living with chronic lung disease.

Interested in pulmonary rehabilitation? Ask your GP or respiratory health professional to refer you.

This webpage has been developed as part of NHS GGC pulmonary rehabilitation home exercise program and should be undertaken with appropriate healthcare supervision . The exercise videos show you how to complete your home exercises, including how to warm up and cool down afterwards.

Why is exercising important for somebody with COPD

Being active has both physical and mental benefits. It improves your fitness, makes you stronger, and helps you manage your COPD and stay out of hospital.

Before you start any exercise, check with your health care professional or repiratory physiotherapist that it’s safe for you.

Why is exercising important for somebody with COPD

How to exercise Safely

It is very important to look after yourself when you are exercising.

Make sure you:

  • Start slowly and gradually build up.
  • Warm up before and cool down after exercising.
  • Carry your blue reliever inhaler +/or GTN Spray if you have them. Use them should you need to.
  • Drink plenty of water and wait at least an hour after eating before you exercise.
  • If you normally use oxygen you can use this when exercising as this will help you recover.
  • Talk to your Pulmonary Rehabilitation team if exercise makes your chest feel tight or wheezy.
  • You may find it beneficial to use your blue reliever inhaler 5 - 20 minutes before starting to exercise but discuss this first.

How hard should I work?

During your exercises, a quick way to check if you’re working at the right level for you is to say out loud:

‘This activity is doing me good!’

If you can say the sentence with one or two stops for breath, you’re working at a moderate intensity. This is your aim.

If you can say it comfortably without stopping, increase the intensity.

If you can’t speak or can’t say more than one word at a time, slow down and try to get your breath back a little on the go. Don’t stop suddenly.

I get anxious when I get breathless

It’s normal to get breathless when you’re active. But if you’re living with COPD, you may feel anxious when this happens. The key is to stay calm and learn ways to manage your breathlessness.

Always remember your breathing control when exercising. Being a little bit breathless is okay and normal when you are being active. If you are living with COPD, you may feel anxious when this happens. The key is to stay calm and learn ways to manage your breathlessness.

Try the breathing techniques at blf.org.uk/breathlessness

It hurts when I exercise

Exercise should not hurt. Any pain during your exercises apart from your usual aches and pains means you should stop the activity. Let your Pulmonary Rehabilitation team know and they can adapt your exercises for you.

Muscle soreness after exercise is a normal response if you have not exercised for a while. It should settle within a day or 2. Avoid those exercises until the soreness settles.

Home Exercise Videos

Which exercise level do I pick?

There are 3 levels of exercise to choose from:

Level 1:
For people who get short of breath during activities like showering and dressing and moving around their home.

Level 2:
For people who get out of breath doing things like carrying light groceries, mowing the lawn and vacuuming.

Level 3:
For people who feel short of breath after doing high energy activities like walking up hills and carrying heavy groceries.


Exercise Sessions have 3 parts:

1. Warming Up

2. Main Exercises

3. Cooling down and Stretching

1. Warming Up

This gets your body ready for exercise and reduces the risk of injuring yourself or getting suddenly breathless.

Try to aim to do this for 8-10 minutes.

Your warm up can be done in either standing or sitting, whichever is most comfortable for you.

If you are doing the warm up in standing have a chair close by should you need to use it for balance.

See Warm up video

3. Cooling down and Stretching

Cooling down is just as important as warming up to gradually reduce your heart rate.

Gentle stretching is also good for the muscles that you have used during your exercises. Stretching prevents you from becoming stiff and sore.

Your cool down can be done in sitting or standing.

Try to cool down and stetch for about 8 – 10 minutes

See Cooling down and stretching video