Looking for ways to increase your fitness level, but you’re not sure where to start? Get ideas from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA)’s exercise video series. Then consult your pulmonary hypertension (PH) doctor to see if the videos are appropriate for you.

PH can worsen as patients’ muscles weaken from inactivity, says Dan Lachant, D.O. “If they don’t do easy things like walking, they don’t get the maximum benefit of their life-saving drugs,” he says.

Dr. Lachant and his colleague Jim White, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center, helped PHA create the series, released in March.

In the “Introduction to Exercise” video, they explain what happens to the heart, lungs and muscles during exercise. They will discuss similar topics at 2 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 21 in our next live virtual town hall, “PHA Connects: Exercise and Pulmonary Rehab in PH.”

The videos aim to motivate patients and help them understand what happens to their bodies when they exercise. The videos feature patients from the University of Rochester’s PH clinic to allow people with PH to envision themselves exercising. The participants range in age, body type and ethnicity, and some have oxygen tanks. The series also includes videos on pulmonary rehab, strength training, cardio and yoga.

Importance of exercise
Drs. Lachant and White are among the growing numbers of PH-treating physicians who promote the benefits of exercise for many PH patients.

Dr. White approached PHA in 2018 about working together on videos about the importance of exercise. The idea began germinating after several studies since the mid-2000s showed exercise could be beneficial for PH patients. The studies made him feel comfortable recommending light weights, walking on a treadmill and riding a stationary bike to PH patients.

The 2018 World Symposium on Pulmonary Hypertension in France confirmed the need to educate PH patients about the benefits of exercise, he says. At the meeting, the Patients’ Perspective Task Force discussed the need to empower patients in managing their PH. The proceedings highlighted the role of non-pharmacologic therapies in improving health-related quality of life, including exercise programs.

“It was the first time there was agreement that exercise was beneficial to people with PH,” Dr. White says. Many physicians had been advising PH patients against exercising since the 1980s because it made them short of breath. “The idea that people needed to be packed in egg crates was slow to die.”

PHA consulted its Scientific Leadership Council (SLC) and PH Clinicians and Researchers (PHCR) network before filming. The groups emphasized that exercise might not be appropriate for every person with PH, and that patients should consult their PH doctors before beginning workout programs.

The videos minimize barriers to exercise. Patients can try the videos after checking with their doctors, use supplies they have at home and exercise at their own pace at home on their own schedules.