Regular exercise can improve exercise capacity, muscle function and quality of life for patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH).

Because the severity of PH and other health-related factors vary from patient to patient, recommendations on exercise differ for each individual. These recommendations may change over time depending on an individual’s symptoms and response to treatment.

How to Get Started

Your PH specialist can help you create an exercise program that works for you. PHA recommends learning more about exercise at a cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation center when it is available. Always talk with your PH care team before beginning an exercise routine. To get started, review our safety tips and use our list of questions to get the information you need from your PH care team.

Safety Tips for Exercise

You shouldn’t feel exhausted, light-headed or dizzy during exercise. You might feel some shortness of breath, but you should always be able to talk and feel in control. If you don’t, slow down and regain control of your breathing. Contact your doctor or call 911 if your shortness of breath doesn’t ease after five minutes of rest.

  • Ask your doctor or PH care team about your exercise plan before you start a new routine.
  • Plan to exercise when you have the most energy.
  • Always exercise with a partner and never alone.
  • If there is furniture around, ensure it’s out of the way in case you lose your balance.
  • Don’t hold your breath during exercise.
  • Include a warmup and cool-down into your exercise routine. It might take PH patients more time to warm up than people who don’t have PH. Don’t feel discouraged if you need a longer warmup.
  • Start small and work up. If you feel tired, you have found the limit of what you can do today. You’re stronger than you were yesterday.

Introduction to Exercise Video Series

PHA “Introduction to Exercise” series consists of five exercise videos and printable resources. These videos discuss the benefits of exercise, explain pulmonary rehabilitation programs and demonstrate exercises in yoga, strength training and cardio.

Notice: Please read this disclaimer before watching the video.

Introduction to Exercise

The Introduction to Exercise video offers information from experts on PH and how the heart, lungs and muscles can benefit from exercise as well as how exercise can benefit one’s quality of life. Drs. Dan Lachant and Jim White discuss how one should speak with the PH care team prior to beginning any new exercise program and share safety tips and warning signs that PH patients should pay attention to when engaging in exercise.

Notice: Please read this disclaimer before watching the video.

Introduction to Pulmonary Rehabilitation

The Introduction to Pulmonary Rehabilitation video provides an overview of pulmonary rehabilitation programs, which are structured six- to eight-week programs staffed by health care professionals who teach people skills to exercise in controlled, safe environments. In this video, you will learn what to expect before, during and after a pulmonary (or cardiac) rehab program.

Notice: Please read this disclaimer before watching the video.

Introduction to Yoga

The Introduction to Yoga video explains how yoga is a dynamic activity that can be tailored to benefit anyone. Because yoga places emphasis on the body and mind, these benefits can be physical (improvements in strength, flexibility and balance) and mental (increased focus and decreased stress). Yoga practice designed to improve flexibility, balance, strength and focus.

Notice: Please read this disclaimer before watching the video.

Introduction to Cardio

The Introduction to Cardio video provides an overview of cardio workouts and a sample cardio routine that uses a treadmill or recumbent bicycle. (The routine also is appropriate for walking outside or at an indoor track or shopping mall.) Cardio exercise increases your heart rate and blood circulation through large muscle movements for a sustained period.

Notice: Please read this disclaimer before watching the video.

Introduction to Strength Training

The Introduction to Strength Training video shares exercises that target major muscle groups through resistance or weight training. The exercises can improve the function of large muscles, overall stability and confidence, and cardiovascular health when part of a full exercise regimen. These exercises are designed to complete without weights or with light hand weights, resistance bands or commonly found household items such as soup cans.

Consult your PH care team before you start exercising

Ask your doctor these questions BEFORE you begin an exercise routine:

  • Is it safe for me to exercise? If not, why?
  • What exercises would you recommend for me? Is yoga safe to improve my flexibility? Is strength training safe to my improve stability and strength? Is aerobic exercise safe to improve my cardiovascular health?
  • If any of these changes are not safe for me, can you tell me why?
  • Is there anything I should avoid (such as bending at the waist or lifting something over my head)?
  • Is there a pulmonary or cardiac rehabilitation program where I could safely learn about and try new exercise routines?
  • What equipment do you recommend I use or avoid? Some people use treadmills, exercise bikes, light hand weights and resistance bands.
  • Should I monitor my heart rate when I exercise? What should be my maximum heart rate? The video says some people use 70% of their age-adjusted max. Is this appropriate for me?
  • How should I check my heart rate? Do I need a heart rate monitor? How do I check my pulse? Is it safe to check my pulse on my neck? Should I monitor my blood pressure?
  • Are these exercise frequencies and durations safe for me?
    • Beginner and Intermediate: Three to five days a week. Thirty minutes total (including warmup, peak exercise and cool-down) per day.
    • Advanced: Four to six days a week. Forty minutes total (including warmup, peak exercise and cool-down) per day.
  • Should I plan to exercise around the time I take my PH meds, or an hour after I take my meds? What about my diuretics?
  • Is it safe for me to drink 8-12 ounces of water when I exercise? If not, what is appropriate for me?
  • Should I monitor my oxygen levels when I exercise? Continuously, or just every once in a while? Is there an oxygen saturation level I should always be above? Many people use 88%. Is that right for me? What do I do if my oxygen saturation goes below that level?
  • Should I change anything about my supplemental oxygen when I exercise?