If you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, your doctor may have recommended pulmonary rehabilitation classes. Whether you are not sure what to expect or are on the fence about attending, it may be helpful to learn a little more about how to get the most out of a pulmonary rehab program.
Getting Started with Pulmonary Rehab
To get started in pulmonary rehab, your doctor usually needs to send a referral. Many pulmonary rehab programs are affiliated with hospitals. After getting the referral, the program will review your insurance to determine coverage provided and what financial responsibility the individual will have. Usually a nurse or respiratory therapist contacts you to explain the program in more detail.
Rehab programs may be structured differently. Some programs offer a series of group classes over six or eight weeks. You might be in class with several other people with various types of lung diseases including COPD, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis. Some programs also offer classes one on one.
At some point when you meet your rehabilitation specialist, you will be assessed to determine if you have any physical issues that may prevent exercise. An assessment is completed, which may include a six-minute walk and possibly strength and flexibility testing.
Getting the Most from Each Class
The classes include an exercise component and classroom presentations where various topics relevant to lung disease are covered. According to the American Lung Association, pulmonary rehab offers substantial benefits in improving lung function, reducing symptoms and improving quality of life for people with lung disease. So, how can you make pulmonary rehabilitation classes worth your time? Consider the following tips for getting the most from each class.
Commit: It might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to show up to as many classes as possible to get the most out of the program. There might be instances when you don’t feel well enough to make it to class. But do your best to make attending pulmonary rehab classes a priority.
Understand what pulmonary rehab is and isn’t: Having a realistic expectation about pulmonary rehabilitation may help you get the most from the class. Rehab will not change the damage to your lungs. But it may help you develop strategies, such as breathing techniques, to cope with IPF better. Building your strength and cardiovascular fitness through regular exercise may help improve your endurance and allow you to do more without as much breathlessness.
Ask questions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You’re there to learn about managing your disease. So, if there is something you don’t understand, ask.
Set goals: Take a few minutes and think about what you hope to gain by attending a pulmonary rehab program. In addition to learning more about IPF, do you have any goals for attending? For example, do you want to walk further, live more independently or learn ways to manage shortness of breath better? Setting and working towards goals may help you gain the most from the classes.
Talk with other patients: Pulmonary rehabilitation is not just about exercise, it’s also about gaining support. Although everyone’s situation is different, talking to people that are dealing with similar issues can be beneficial. The camaraderie and support might be just as helpful as the education.
Have a plan for when the classes are complete: Once you complete your pulmonary rehabilitation classes, there are several things that may be useful in the long-term including:
- Practice what you have learned in class.
- Ask about ongoing exercise classes.
- Stay in touch with fellow classmates.
- Get involved in activities the program may offer, such as social events.
Content written by Dr. Jeremy Feldman, an expert in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, with contributions by MaryAnn DePietro, B.S. CRT, a licensed respiratory therapist.