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Pulmonary Rehab - Frequently Asked Questions


Can I benefit from pulmonary rehab?

Patients with a variety of lung ailments, including COPD, might be candidates for pulmonary rehab. Even some with very low levels of function and mobility can achieve substantial improvements.

Discuss the possible benefits of pulmonary rehab with your primary care physician. A doctor's order is required before you begin the program, and an initial phone evaluation will determine your eligibility. Participants must be non-smoking, and current Pulmonary Function Tests, Chest X-rays and EKGs are required. Those with a history of cardiac ailments might be referred for evaluation for a cardiac rehab class.

To read about some of our patients' experiences with the program, click here.

What improvements can I expect?

It is never too late to improve. For most patients, even those with advanced lung disease and limited mobility, goals center around significant improvements in everyday function. For instance, one of the most common goals is to walk twenty or thirty minutes on a treadmill. When a patient achieves this goal, it means they can now do some errands, and perform some activities around the house. Many patients find they can do things they never thought they would do by themselves again, such as grocery shop. This return to more normal activity has an enormous impact on a patient's quality of life.

As with any lifestyle change, individual improvements are closely tied to effort and commitment. Pulmonary Rehab staff helps patients set attainable goals, develop plans for reaching those goals, and provides assistance and encouragement along the way. Ultimately, though, it's the patient's dedication that will determine the final results.

When is Pulmonary Rehab not the best option?

Pulmonary Rehab benefits a wide range of patients. However, it may not be right for you. Patients are accepted into the program only when they can safely benefit from the exercises and instruction. Speak with your primary care physician to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for the Pulmonary Rehab program.

How is the program structured?

Each Pulmonary Rehab session lasts between six - ten weeks, with three 1.5-hour classes each week. During each class, Pulmonary Rehab staff will offer direction and assistance as participants perform aerobic and strengthening exercises.

Once a week, expert speakers will give educational presentations on a variety of pertinent topics. Typical topics include breathing exercises, anatomy, nutrition tips with a registered dietitian, medication review Q & A with a pharmacist, and stress management. Presentations are designed to educate patients, so they can better care for themselves.

But I've never been on a treadmill before - will I be too short of breath?

This is a very common fear. For those with trouble walking, standing, and even drawing breath, ten minutes on a treadmill seems as impossible as running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. You need not be afraid. Remember that everyone who joins Pulmonary Rehab has some degree of reduced function, and many feel incapable of exercise at the beginning. Walking on a treadmill for the first time takes everyone some "getting used to". You'll begin the program with small steps, and increase as you improve. At no point will you be forced into unsafe activity. Before long, you will begin to see small changes, and eventually you'll be doing things you never thought possible!

How will Pulmonary Rehab affect my relationships with friends and family?

Chances are, you'll be amazed how much more you can do with friends and family after Pulmonary Rehab. With increased stamina and mobility, many patients are able to perform more functions in the home, such as cooking and self-care, which eases the burden of time and worry on family and friends. Family members are always welcome at the educational classes and breathing club meetings, so they can understand more about your condition. Most patients also find they're able to go out more, socializing at restaurants, movies and on other outings. Intimate relationships are also improved. Typically, Pulmonary Rehab participants see significant increases in their social activities as they begin to feel more like their "old selves".

How can I maintain and improve my fitness once my Pulmonary Rehab session ends?

Patients "graduate" from the program once they have achieved their goals. A continued diet and exercise plan is crucial to maintaining fitness and functionality. The Cardio-Pulmonary Rehab department at Sturdy Memorial runs a maintenance program, and the Hospital also facilitates a Wellness Exercise class. The Breathing Club also helps keep patients informed about pulmonary issues, and offers support and discussion. In addition to the resources available at the Hospital, there are area fitness clubs graduates can easily transition to stay on track.