Keeping active with a lung condition

What activities could I do?

There’s no single activity that’s best for everyone. Being more active could mean taking part in sports or exercise classes if that’s what you enjoy. But you can also be more active just by changing your daily habits. The main thing is to choose activities you enjoy at the right level for you. On this page we’ll give you some ideas for suitable activities.

On this page:


Activities in daily life

There are many ways to be more active in day to day life. For example:

  • walking up stairs
  • doing housework
  • gardening
  • walking your dog
  • playing with your children or grandchildren

There are also lots of ways to sit less:

  • walking around when you’re on the phone or during TV advertising breaks
  • getting off the bus one stop early
  • walking to the shops if you usually go by car. If walking there and back seems too much, walk there and get the bus back.

Your occupational therapist (OT) or physiotherapist might also be able to give you some ideas. They might start with basic self-care tasks such as getting dressed. They can give you a plan based on your own abilities and needs. Practising the tasks or exercises suggested by your OT or physiotherapist can help you stay independent, and keep you fit. 


Structured activities

There are lots of structured activities which can help you increase your activity levels:

If you’re worried about starting a new activity, check with your health care professional that it’s safe for you. Make sure the organisers know about your condition so they can support you.

Being active at home

Being active at home allows you to work at your own pace. If you’re worried about exercising safely at home, why not invite a friend or neighbour to join in?

  • BLF resources: Our online videos and our exercise handbook support you to do simple exercise at home. You can download our exercise handbook from this page. Or you can order a copy online or by calling our helpline on 03000 030 555.
  • Activity DVDs, smartphone apps and online videos: These are a great way to try out different activities such as yoga, tai chi, keep fit and dancing. Try different activities online or try a DVD or app to see if you like something. Then choose something you enjoy.
  • Active 10 and Couch to 5K: If you’d like to get out of the house, the NHS Active 10 app is a great way to help you fit exercise into your day. Or try the Couch to 5k podcast from the NHS. It helps you gradually increase your activity using a walking or jogging programme. 

BLF exercise handbook

This handbook is designed for people with lung conditions to exercise at home.

You can download it all, or in sections:

To start, read the first section above. Then for each session, we recommend you aim for:

  • 10 minutes warming up
  • 20 minutes exercising. As you progress you could aim to build this up to 30 minutes or more
  • 10 minutes cooling down

Download the full exercise handbook (PDF, 728kb)


Community activity

You might be surprised at the number of activities where you live that are suitable for someone with a lung condition: 

  • Walking: Health walk programmes across the UK offer free, short, local group walks. Your health care professional may know about suitable walking groups in your area. We also have information about walking programmes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Local facilities: Local authorities, gyms, community halls and schools offer chances to use their facilities or try out activities like swimming, yoga, tai chi, dance, bowls and golf. If you go to the gym, don’t be scared to ask an instructor for help and advice.
  • Walking sports: Walking sports are less strenuous than traditional versions. Aimed at people over 55 or those with a long-term condition, they’re a social and flexible way to take part in sport. You could try walking football, netball, cricket, hockey and more. Our support section has contact details for walking sport groups.
  • Singing: Join your local singing group. Singing can help breathing and wellbeing. It exercises breathing muscles and builds stamina through vocal exercises and songs. 

Join your local Breathe Easy support group! Groups offer friendship and support, and some also arrange exercise and singing classes. 


Specialist exercise classes

If you feel you need more support, physical activity specialists can help. There are lots of specialists who are trained to support people with long-term conditions and work on exercise referral schemes.  

Chair-based exercises

Chair-based exercise classes involve gentle activity that can help improve your muscle strength, balance and flexibility. They are for anyone who wants to get more active. Most pulmonary rehabilitation classes involve chair-based exercises. 

Exercise referral schemes

These schemes allow GPs and other health care professionals to refer patients to specialist activity instructors. You’ll get close supervision from a specialist instructor either one-to-one or in a group. Activities might include exercises in a gym, aerobic exercise sessions or water-based fitness classes. Ask your health care professional about exercise referral schemes in your area.

“I have never felt stronger, both physically and mentally”

Exercise changed Margaret’s life after being diagnosed with IPF.

“I had been breathless for some time and thought I was just unfit. But now I knew I had a serious lung condition (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF) and needed to make changes. 
 
A friend suggested I try pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). So I gave it a go! The course leader knew exactly what we all needed. I saw people come in one week unable to exercise at all, then leave the course confident in their own abilities.
 
PR isn’t just about exercise, it teaches you how to manage your condition each day. Even more than that, it helps you to deal with your mental health. Since the course I have never felt stronger, both physically and mentally.
 
I’m learning to get the most out of my exercise, not push myself too far and improve my breathing. I now enjoy boxing, I train with weights and sometimes use the treadmill whilst using oxygen. I do still get out of breath, but that’s good! You just need to learn how to recover and how much is too much."

Next: Pulmonary rehabilitation or PR >

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