How Does Pulmonary Rehabilitation Help with Chronic Lung Disease?


How Does Pulmonary Rehabilitation Help with Chronic Lung Disease?

Chronic lung disease makes everyday living a challenge. For people with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), life can be both frustrating and depressing for a couple of different reasons:

  1. They have a difficult time doing the things that bring them pleasure
  2. They live with a constant fear of becoming short-of-breath

But pulmonary rehabilitation programs can make life better.

Pulmonary rehabilitation helps build physical fitness and provide strategies for living a fulfilling life with chronic lung disease. A thorough pulmonary rehabilitation program consists of exercise, breathing techniques, education, nutritional counseling, and emotional/psychological support.  

Here’s how it works:


Pulmonary rehabilitation programs will include upper- and lower-body exercises, such as walking, stair climbing, and lifting. Many of these exercises will focus on endurance, but strength training is also beneficial. Exercise supports pulmonary rehabilitation by:

  • Improving function of heart and lungs
  • Strengthening muscles used for breathing
  • Helping to maintain physical fitness

Breathing techniques

Breathing training will teach tips and strategies, such as “pursed lips breathing” and “diaphragmatic breathing” to help the patient get the air needed without working so hard to breathe. Some breathing exercises (such as blowing through a tube against resistance) may also be a part of the program. Breathing techniques support pulmonary rehabilitation by:

  • Improving the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
  • Slowing the breathing down
  • Conserving energy
  • Increasing the amount of time the patient can perform an activity
  • Training the diaphragm to take over more of the work of breathing


The team of health care providers leading the pulmonary rehabilitation program will use printed material, videos, classes, and/or one-on-one conversations to pass on important information. Teaching sessions for education in a pulmonary rehabilitation program will focus mainly on:

  • Understanding the medication
  • Understanding the treatment plan
  • Self-management at home

Nutritional counseling

The shortness of breath caused by chronic lung diseases can lead to decreased appetite and fatigue, which tend to interfere with proper nutrition and weight management. Nutritional counseling supports pulmonary rehabilitation by: 

  • Offering practical suggestions for healthy nutrition and food prep
  • Providing individualized diet plans for weight management

Psychological support

Anxiety and depression are common symptoms in those with chronic lung diseases. And what’s worse is that these symptoms increase the shortness of breath that causes them. Mood problems can also interfere with relationships. Psychological support in pulmonary rehabilitation helps by:

  • Providing techniques for managing stress
  • Offering coping techniques to the family and the patient
  • Reducing negative mood symptoms
  • Increasing hope and optimism

Looking for pulmonary rehabilitation? We can help.

At Bella Vista Health Center, our pulmonary rehabilitation program has helped many San Diegans and Southern Californians live a better, more fulfilling life with chronic lung disease. Our practitioners and providers work as a team to ensure that each patient receives the quality, individualized care they need. 

Want more information? Give us a call or stop by our 5-star facility in Lemon Grove to learn more about our pulmonary rehabilitation program.