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The recommended guidelines for exercise

An exercise program should include: 

An aerobic program that involves walking, as this is the most relevant exercise for daily living. Other types of aerobic exercise can include cycling on an exercise bike or even using a rowing machine. You could use these exercises to add variety to your program or when you have difficulties with walking.

A strength training program, which will keep your muscles strong and minimise some of the effects of having a chronic lung condition. Strength training should include exercises for your arms, torso and legs. Pelvic floor exercises are also very important as these can be weak due to persistent coughing.


  • When first starting out an interval program of smaller amounts of walking may be more achievable. Remember to always start slowly and build up gradually. For example, to start with, you may be only able to walk 1-2 minutes before needing a break. Over time you may be able to walk 5-10 minutes before needing to stop, or even longer.
  • Rather than setting a pace based on speed set your walk pace on your Rating of Perceived Exertion/Breathlessness. You should be aiming to be exercising within the moderate to somewhat severe zone – that is 3-4 on the Modified BORG Scale.
  • Aim for 20-30 mins of walking 4-5 times per week. Remember, however, the time can be broken up into smaller amounts if it is more achievable for you. For example you may walk three times throughout the day for three, 10 minutes walks throughout the day, or complete a 10 minute walk and a 15 minute walk per day.
  • Starting slowly is important so it may take some time to reach the recommended amount of walking. To help you meet your goal, keep track of your progress and use an exercise diary or recording sheet.
  • When commencing a new walking program plan your route prior to setting out. Make sure there are safe paths and areas to rest if needed.
  • If possible recruit a friend or family member to walk with you. This will help with motivation and can make the walk safer and more enjoyable.

There are many different types of strength training programs available. Following is an example of a strengthening program. Please discuss with your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist about a suitable program for you to undertake.

  • Aim to do three sessions per week of the following strengthening exercises with a day off between training.
  • Aim to achieve muscle fatigue between 6 and 10 repetitions. If you have not achieved muscle fatigue after 10 repetitions, then you may need to either add arm or leg weights to the exercise or increase the weight of the arm or leg weights.
  • If you find doing all the exercises at each session is too much, you can split the exercises in half and do them on alternate days. For example:
    • Day 1: You may choose to do the bicep curl, wall push up or bench press, lateral pull down, leg press or squat, and step ups (outlined under ‘Examples of strength training’).
    • Day 2: You may choose to do the shoulder press, sit to stand, standing row or seated row and lunge (outlined under ‘Examples of strength training’).