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Exercising with a chronic lung disease

People living with chronic lung disease are caught in a difficult cycle – cardiovascular exercise is essential for strengthening their lungs, but, lung disease often prevents them from feeling like they can participate in regular fitness activities! 

The Lung Health Foundation suggests starting small, with simple exercises that fit into your daily routine. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting something new, and listen to your body!


Benefits of exercise

Daily exercise will allow you to accomplish more, use your energy more efficiently, and feel less breathless. 


  • Improve energy levels
  • Exercise ability
  • Muscle and bone strength
  • Mood


  • Breathlessness for any activity
  • Leg tiredness
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Risk of infection

What’s normal when exercising – and what’s not? 

It’s normal to experience:  

  • Light to moderate breathlessness
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue or burning in your legs
  • Light muscular or joint pain

But you should stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider if you feel any of these symptoms: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Intense joint pain
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Severe and prolonged breathing difficulties
  • Abnormally tired 

Breathing while exercising

It is important to breathe the entire time you are exercising. You may feel like you want to hold your breath; however, it is important to maintain a normal breathing pattern. Try to exhale while performing each movement, and when returning back to the starting position, try to inhale.

Simple at-home exercises

Our Fitness for Breath partners at the Abilities Centre have created these simple home exercises that you can get started with:

Questions about exercising with a chronic lung disease?

Our Certified Respiratory Educators can help through our free Lung Health Line.