Physical activity

Regular physical activity is important for lung health and there is a level of exercise or activity that is suitable for everyone. Being active benefits both the population in general and also people living with lung conditions. It has been shown to improve quality of life and fitness in healthy individuals and to reduce the risk of chronic conditions.


Last Update 05/09/2023

ELF easy at home exercise series

What are the benefits of exercise?

It is normal to get breathless during exercise. However, regular exercise can increase the strength and function of your muscles, making them work more efficiently. As your muscle strength increases, this will reduce the amount of air you need to breathe in and out for a given exercise.

Regular activity also improves your circulation and strengthens your heart. It improves overall well-being and can decrease the risk of developing other conditions such as stroke, heart disease and depression. Regular exercise is also one of the most important interventions to prevent the onset of type-II diabetes.

Exercising with a lung condition

People with long-term lung conditions can help improve their symptoms through regular physical activity. The thought of becoming quickly out of breath can be daunting and you may not feel motivated to start moving. However, if you do less activity you become less fit and daily activities will become even harder. It is best to ask the guidance of a doctor or physiotherapist before you begin changing your activity levels, to ensure that your plans are in line with your capacity and are safe. All exercise and physical activity programmes must be built up over time to allow the body to adapt.

Top tips for keeping active

  • At the start of your work-out, prepare yourself with gentle activities involving the muscles you will be using during your exercise (warm up).
  • Improve your flexibility with stretching exercises.
  • Gradually improve your ability to exercise for longer periods (build up stamina).
  • Increase activity at your own pace, and do not be afraid to get modestly out of breath (i.e. 4–5 on a scale of 0–10).
  • Improve your muscle strength (i.e. by lifting weights).
  • At the end of your work-out, slow down your activities, stretch the muscles you have used, and allow your breathing to return to normal (cool down).

Remember: Exercise can bring many benefits and be enjoyable, even with a long-term health problem. Even if a task seems difficult at first, if you tackle one thing at a time at your own pace, you will quickly notice an improvement in your symptoms.