Catch Your Breath

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis or emphysema) or are having trouble breathing, pulmonary rehabilitation can help.

People who are short of breath often limit their extra activity. It doesn’t take long to get out of shape. Moving less leads to more shortness of breath. People may notice shortness of breath even when going about their normal routine: dressing, eating, and bathing. This can lead to anxiety over expected shortness of breath and even less movement. The trend often continues and decreases quality of life.

Patients with chronic lung disease spend less time walking and standing, and more time sitting and lying compared to similar healthy people.

Education and exercising in a safe environment can be a great way break the spiral, improve quality of life, and increase exercise capacity. Pulmonary rehabilitation provides education about how to manage chronic lung diseases and safe exercise training.

Anyone living with a long-term lung disease can benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation. The benefits include decreased shortness of breath, gaining control of your breathing with all activity, improved oxygen levels, and better circulation.

Additional benefits include decreased extremity pain with activity, improved endurance, coping with fear and anxiety, improved mood and memory, increased energy and motivation, weight maintenance, better control of blood sugar, and better management of heart disease.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center offers pulmonary rehabilitation as an outpatient program for people living with chronic lung disease and their family members.

The program meets twice a week and continues for eight weeks. It combines educational sessions and guided physical activity. Through education and exercise with a respiratory and physical therapist, participants gain an understanding of their condition and how to manage it.

Sound scary? The program is designed for people with little or varied experience with exercising. Patient, helpful professionals guide participants every step of the way. Many participants find the workout portion really enjoyable.

The educational component helps participants understand their condition and how to improve it. It empowers them to make the best choices.

Participants learn how to manage their condition and make ongoing improvements on their own, even after the program ends. SVMC’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation offers a maintenance program that allows participants to continue the exercise component with the same trainers long term.

If pulmonary rehabilitation seems like it could help you improve the symptoms of chronic lung disease, ask your primary care physician for a referral to SVMC’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program. With a referral, most insurances will cover the cost.

The effort you make to attend a pulmonary rehabilitation program could be the most significant thing you do to improve your overall health.

Caitlyn Sanderson, DPT, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program coordinator, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. You can reach her by calling 802-447-5140. “Health Matters” is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.