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Exercise helps me feel stronger than ever before

Margaret discovered the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation and now feels stronger mentally and physically than ever before!


I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, IPF in June 2018, after 18 months of doctor’s appointments and tests. Finally, I was referred to the hospital and was told I had IPF.

I had been breathless for some time and was beginning to struggle now and then with exercise. I thought I was just unfit. I suppose I didn’t want to admit it may be more of a problem. But now I knew I had a serious lung condition and needed to make changes.

Trying to live a normal life

After my first appointment, the doctor told me to just go home and try to live a normal life. So I decided to work on improving my fitness, believing this would help me feel better. I bought a cross-trainer and would go for long uphill walks, pushing myself to walk faster or get to the top of the next hill. The cross-trainer didn’t help my breathlessness and the doctor soon told me this kind of exercise wasn’t right for my condition.

A while later I was speaking to a friend and he suggested a try pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). He told me how great it had made him feel, how confident he felt after the course and how much more positive he was about his breathing and exercise. So I gave it a go!

I wish I’d gone to PR sooner!

I read up about it before hand on the British Lung Foundation website, so I knew a little of what to expect, but I was uncertain about it going into the first session. However, everyone was very welcoming and the course leader was very experienced, he knew exactly what we all needed.

There was a range of abilities and seeing the positivity and progression in other people helped me see the possibility for myself. 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. For example, we learnt about the weather and how to look after your lungs in different temperatures. But even more than that, it helps you to deal with your mental health.

One of the largest hurdles to overcome is the knowledge that your life has changed for good. But the instructor reminded me that your lungs are huge! They may not work as well, but there is still so much to work with.

Since the course I have never felt stronger, both physically and mentally.

I still get out of breath, in a good way

I now go to the gym twice a week, with a wonderful trainer who helps me to stay on track. I am starting to learn more tips and tricks 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 exercise is good for you, or how much is too much.

It has been a rocky journey for both myself and my husband but after looking the disease square in the face I have taken charge! The future may not be completely rosy but life is good and we treasure every day.

We are making a big noise about getting more active this March, as part of the We Are Undefeatable campaign.

You are twice as likely to be inactive if you have a long-term health condition. However, as Margaret's story shows, getting active can help both your mental and physcial health.

Find out more about getting active

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10 March 2020