Adult Exercise Sport Activity

Just because you suffer from pulmonary fibrosis — a condition that causes damaged and scarred lung tissue — doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an active lifestyle. In fact, being sedentary can put you at risk for additional chronic health problems. Knowing how to stay active with pulmonary fibrosis is crucial to living a longer, happier and healthier life. Here are some tips for taking control and getting active.

  1. Start Slow with Aerobic Workouts

Check in with your doctor to determine which exercises are appropriate for you before you begin. Start slow, and gradually work up to higher intensity and longer duration. One 2016 study published in the journal Breathe found that patients with pulmonary fibrosis can improve exercise capacity by slowly increasing aerobic workouts from 20 to 40 minutes two to three days weekly up to 20 to 50 minutes three to four days per week.

Walking is one of the best ways to stay active without overdoing it when you have pulmonary fibrosis. Biking, swimming and using an elliptical machine are other lower-intensity workout options that can help gradually increase endurance.

  1. Stay Active Throughout the Day

One key component of staying active with pulmonary fibrosis is to move around throughout the entire day, not just during workout sessions. In fact, increasing activities of daily living is a good place to start if you’re not a regular exerciser. Try outdoor yard work, indoor house cleaning, parking farther away at work or the store and taking the stairs instead of the elevator to keep your blood flowing and prevent disease risk factors associated with sitting all day.

Relaxed woman doing breathing exercises in gym

  1. Do Breathing Exercises

When you have pulmonary fibrosis, breathing can be a challenge, especially during exercise. It’s important to work on breathing exercises regularly to reduce the breathing difficulty associated with pulmonary fibrosis and help you breathe deeper. Belly breathing, huff-cough exercises, forced coughing and pursed-lips breathing are just a few breathing techniques to get you started.

For more tips on incorporating breathing techniques into your lifestyle, check out the Art of Living. This organization shares research-backed benefits of practicing breathing techniques, including enhanced immune function and decreases in stress hormones.

  1. Consider Oxygen Therapy

If being physically active makes breathing difficult, ask your doctor about oxygen therapy to help you breathe easier during exercise — and to prevent or reduce the risk for low blood oxygen levels. Your doctor will help determine if oxygen therapy (receiving supplemental oxygen when you breathe) is the right fit for you. He or she will determine if you should have oxygen with you during exercise, when you sleep or all throughout the day using a mobile oxygen canister.

  1. Don’t Forget about Resistance Training

Resistance training is an important part of staying active when you have pulmonary fibrosis, as it helps boost strength, energy levels and quality of life. The 2016 study in the journal Breath instructed pulmonary fibrosis patients to complete resistance training 10 to 20 minutes two to three times a week initially, and work up to 20 to 30 minutes three to four times a week over a period of six months.

Forms of resistance training used in this study include wall pushups, dumbbell shoulder presses, dumbbell one-handed rows, dumbbell biceps curls, dumbbell arm extensions, one-legged step-ups and abdominal curls. Other forms of muscle strengthening activities you can try (with your doctor’s approval, of course) include squats, lunges and plank exercises.

Male Physical therapist helping a patient

  1. Consider Taking Systemic Enzymes

Many people living with pulmonary fibrosis find that taking a systemic enzyme supplement can boost energy their level, support them in being more active, and help them recover after strenuous activity. For the best absorption potential, look for a systemic enzyme supplement that contains a blended enteric-coated formula and one with BPPS™ technology.

  1. Try Flexibility and Balance Exercises

As part of the exercise training program for pulmonary fibrosis patients published in 2016 in the journal Breath, patients participated in both flexibility and balance exercises to maximize health and increase quality of life. Incorporate some balance and stretching movements into your routine to help your coordination and stability, both while exercising and throughout your life.

Stretching exercises used in the study included standing quadriceps stretches, seated single leg hamstring stretches, chest stretches, overhead reach stretches and cat stretches. Examples of balance exercises provided by Mayo Clinic that help improve coordination, increase strength and prevent falls include weight-shifting exercises, single-legged balance exercises, one-legged dumbbell curls and Tai Chi.

  1. Find Something You Enjoy!

The trick to staying active with pulmonary fibrosis — or for anyone — is choosing something you enjoy. Find a friend to go on daily walks or hikes with, try a low-intensity cycling class, consider roller blading outdoors or use yard work as a way to boost daily physical activity.

  1. Always Get Your Doctor’s Permission

Because breathing difficulty associated with pulmonary fibrosis can be dangerous, always check in with your doctor before beginning a new workout program to find out what the safest, most effective routine is for you. Your doctor will let you know if oxygen therapy during exercise is a good idea to help reduce breathing difficulty.

Getting Started

Adding physical activity to your day-to-day routine provides numerous health benefits for people with pulmonary fibrosis. Don’t forget to start slow, avoid overdoing it and choose activities you can stick with long term to maximize health and wellness — and boost your quality of life.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information received from us.

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  • Shirley
    Posted on October 23, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you!

  • Gail M Shipes
    Posted on January 22, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    I have been on a regular gym 3 times a week and yoga and now that have told me I have mild pf should I change my routine

  • Gwen rienti
    Posted on March 5, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    I found this very interesting. I do most of what was listed but need more aerobic & weights so will do that. Thank you for this

  • Kathy
    Posted on March 29, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    This will not for my husband he is on oxygen most of the time

  • Bev
    Posted on May 26, 2019 at 12:30 am

    The exercises you are describing must be for people with early stages. I could never do resistance exercise, and I must park as close to the stores as I can. Walking is a problem for me. I can, however do stretching exercises and gardening.

  • Ken Fincham
    Posted on May 24, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    These activities would probably kill me. I have PF for 7 years and have got to a point where I can stand in front of a chair for 45 seconds,with full flow oxygen at 8L/min and the chest pains start. I add another 6Lof flow and sit down before I pass out IT TAKES ABOUT 10 MINUTES TO GET MY bLOOD oXY. back into high 70%, and my heart rate into the 70″s. I can move along a counter for 8 ft as long as I have a back-up oxy. bottle in reach.I need some need some type of low impact exercise plan.


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