What is pulmonary rehabilitation?

When you have a lung problem – especially along-term one – you can find it difficult to move around or do your normal daily activities without getting breathless.

Pulmonary rehabilitation aims to help you cope with your breathlessness and to feel stronger and fitter at the same time.

Breathlessness can be very frightening. This means that people with a lung problem often avoid situations where they might become breathless and so reduce the amount of activity they do.

This does not help in the long run as patients become unfit, tired, and even more breathless. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help break this vicious cycle.

How will pulmonary rehabilitation help me?

Increase your ability to exercise

You should be able to walk further and, as a result, will probably feel less breathless during your daily activities such as walking up stairs, shopping, and dressing. You are likely to feel less tired too.

Help you cope with your breathlessness

It is very easy to be frightened by breathlessness. Pulmonary rehabilitation should help you to manage your breathlessness better and to have more control.

It is important to know that although pulmonary rehabilitation should help with your breathlessness, it is unlikely to change your lung function as measured by a spirometer. Pulmonary rehabilitation helps you feel less breathless by strengthening your muscles, improving your use of oxygen, increasing your coordination, and increasing your understanding of your breathlessness rather than by changing your lung function.

What happens during pulmonary rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation at Royal Brompton Hospital is a twice weekly exercise class run by a respiratory physiotherapist. The course lasts for eight weeks. 

The first step will be to check your current exercise ability. This provides what we call a “baseline” measure – a starting point to work from. We will also measure how well your lungs are working by using a spirometer.

Once we have assessed your exercise ability, you will start on the pulmonary rehabilitation programme. 

Each class lasts for one hour. You will warm up for five to ten minutes, then complete exercise training, and then cool down for five to ten minutes.

We will always monitor how you are doing and will never ask you to do more than you think you can.

Educational sessions run alongside the exercise classes. Topics covered include:

  • How the lungs work
  • Airway clearance techniques
  • Benefits of exercise
  • Dietary advice
  • Advice on inhalers
  • Coping with lung disease
  • Advice on how to stop smoking
  • Stress management and relaxation
  • Exercise at home

When you start your pulmonary rehabilitation programme we will give you a booklet with information on all the topics covered in the educational sessions.

Who is on the pulmonary rehabilitation team?

The pulmonary rehabilitation team at Royal Brompton Hospital is made up of:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Respiratory consultants
  • Occupational therapists
  • Dietitians
  • Health psychologists
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Therapy assistants

Members of the team can help you with all aspects of your respiratory disease.

Where and when do the classes run?

Pulmonary rehabilitation classes run on Monday and Thursday afternoons in the physiotherapy exercise room. The room is on level two of our Fulham Wing building (entrance on Fulham Road, next to The Royal Marsden).

Classes run from 1-3pm or from 2-4pm.

Unfortunately we cannot provide transport to and from classes. If transport is a problem, please talk to your physiotherapist. We can then discuss options with you.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a term that covers a range of progressive lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and refractory asthma. 

Who can I contact for further information?

If you have any questions or would like any further information please call 020 7349 7775.

You can also contact the pulmonary rehabilitation physiotherapist via our switchboard on 020 7352 8121 and ask for bleep 1050.

Pulmonary rehabilitation location

Physiotherapy exercise room, second floor, South Block (Fulham Wing), Royal Brompton Hospital

Contact details

Tel: +44(0)207 351 8088
Fax: +44(0)207 349 7778

Clinical lead

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson

Senior physiotherapist

Victoria Lord - to contact Victoria, please dial 020 7352 8121 and ask for bleep 1050

We have more information about the specific clinics at our hospitals and community clinics on our service page.