Albany Internal Medicine


Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab) is a broad program that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic (ongoing) breathing problems, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), sarcoidosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or cystic fibrosis. Pulmonary rehab can also benefit people who need lung surgery, both before and after the surgery.

Pulmonary rehabilitation does not replace medical treatment, but can support medical therapies to help people stay more active and carry out day-to-day activities.

Components of pulmonary rehab include:

  • Exercise training
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Education on your lung disease or condition and how to manage it
  • Energy-conserving techniques
  • Breathing strategies
  • Psychological counseling and/or group support

Recommended components of an individual's rehab program will depend on what you and your doctor think you need. It may include exercise training, nutrition advice, education about your disease and how to manage it, and counseling.

The different parts of the rehab program are managed by different types of health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists, and dietitians who work together to develop a individualized program.

Medical evaluation and management

Lung function tests, such as spirometry, may be performed before and after rehab.

Setting goals

You will work with your pulmonary rehab team to set goals for your program. These goals will look at the types of activities that you want to do. For example, you may want to take walks every day, do chores around the house, and visit with friends. These things will be worked on in your pulmonary rehab program.

Exercise training

Your program may include exercise training. This training includes showing you exercises to help your arms and legs get stronger. You may also learn breathing exercises that strengthen the muscles needed for breathing.


Many pulmonary rehab programs have an educational component that helps you learn about your disease and symptoms, commonly used treatments, different techniques used to manage symptoms, and what you should expect from the program. The education may include meeting with (1) a dietitian to learn about your diet and healthy eating; (2) an occupational therapist to learn ways that are easier on your breathing to carry out your everyday activities; or (3) a respiratory therapist to learn about breathing techniques and how to do respiratory treatments.

Program results (outcomes)

You will talk with your pulmonary rehab team at different times during your program to go over the goals that you set and see if you are meeting them. For example, if your goal is to walk every day for 30 minutes, you will talk to members of your pulmonary team and tell them how often you are walking and for how long. The team is interested in helping you reach your goals.