Keeping active with a lung condition

How active should I aim to be?

The UK government recommends how active we should be. If you’re not very active at the moment, the recommendations below might seem overwhelming. Think about how you could do a little every day. Even 10 minutes can have a positive impact. Over time, your fitness will increase and you’ll be able to do more.

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What kinds of activity should I aim to do?

Sit less

This is one of the biggest changes you can make. Try to break up long periods of sitting and increase the number of steps you take every day. Research suggests that just 1,000 more steps a day can make a difference. Some people find it useful to aim for a target – for example 10,000 steps a day. Track your daily steps using a smartphone or pedometer and try to gradually increase this number.

Aerobic activity

Every week, try to do at least 150 minutes of activities like brisk walking, dancing, gardening and housework – about 20 minutes a day. These aerobic activities work your heart and lungs. Your body warms up, your heart beats faster and your breathing is quicker and deeper than normal. Aim to get moderately out of breath – use the talk test to check you’re working at the right level.

Strengthening activity

Aim to do activities that improve your muscle strength at least twice a week. You can fit this into your daily life, for example by carrying shopping bags. You could also do yoga or use weights in a gym.

Improving coordination and balance

If you’re older or at risk of falling, include some activities that improve coordination and balance at least one day a week. For example dance, tai chi and bowls.


Working at the right level for me

When you’re active, you want to get moderately out of breath, but not too much. Check you’re exerting yourself the right amount using the talk test

The talk test

Say out loud: “This activity is going to do me good!”

  • If you can say the sentence with two or three stops for breath, you’re working at a moderate intensity. This is your aim.
  • If you can say the whole sentence without stopping, you can increase the intensity.
  • If you can’t speak, or can’t say more than one word at a time, you may want to slow down.

If you’re worried about figuring out the right level for you, speak to your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist. If they recommend that physical activity isn’t suitable for you at the moment, ask about other things that might help improve your quality of life.

'Being breathless is normal. The important thing is to pace yourself and to be able to understand and identify your limits' Ron


How can I keep safe when I’m active?

It’s important to look after yourself while you’re being active.

  • Start slowly and gradually build up
  • ​Warm up before and cool down after your exercise
  • If you use an inhaler, carry it while you exercise, use it when you need to
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing and supportive non-slip shoes
  • Drink plenty of water so you don’t get dehydrated
  • Wait for at least an hour after eating before starting to exercise
  • Be active at a level that’s right for you – use the talk test above to check
  • STOP if you get any sudden symptoms, including: chest pain or tightness, feeling dizzy, nauseous, clammy or cold, feeling increasingly wheezy, or getting sore joints or muscle weakness. Seek advice from a health care professional.

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Last medically reviewed: August 2017. Due for review: August 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.