Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Pulmonary Rehabilitation in COPD


Am Fam Physician. 2010 Sep 15;82(6):661.

  See related article on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

What is pulmonary rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program for patients with lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It helps you breathe and makes it easier for you to do normal activities. The program includes exercise, social support, and tools to help you cope with the disease.

Who can it help?

The program can help people who have already tried medicine for COPD but still have trouble breathing or doing day-to-day activities.

Will it help me live longer?

Yes, people who try pulmonary rehabilitation have a better chance of living longer. They also have a better quality of life and less anxiety.

Do I have to stay in the hospital?

Although most of these programs are based out of hospitals, you will only have to come during the day. You will not have to stay overnight.

How long does it take?

You will probably have to go to the hospital for two to three hours a day, three days a week. Most programs last between six and 12 weeks.

What kinds of exercise will I do?

Most pulmonary rehabilitation programs involve upper- and lower-body exercises. Lower-body training might include walking or riding a stationary bicycle. These exercises will make it easier for you to do things like climbing stairs. Upper-body training targets your arms and shoulders. It will help you do things like carrying groceries and cooking dinner.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians' Consumer Education Resource

Web site:

American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Web site:

American College of Chest Physicians

Web site:

American Lung Association

Web site:

American Thoracic Society

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

More in AFP


Sep 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article