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.
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.
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?