9 Tips for Exercising Safely With Pulmonary Hypertension


Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a condition often misdiagnosed and with a very short lifespan if not treated in time. After getting an accurate diagnosis, it’s time to adapt to your new PH life and routine. Being such a serious condition, it can be scary to think about fitness while living with a disease that constantly leaves you breathless, but there are exercises that PH patients can safely do.

We’ve put together these nine tips to help you safely exercise with pulmonary hypertension:

1. Check with your doctor: Even though exercise brings benefits to everyone, patients living with pulmonary hypertension may need some extra care when choosing a proper exercise routine. Make sure you consult with your physician to learn which types of exercise are best and how you can participate safely.

2. Start slowly and be patient: Exercising while living with a disease that affects your lungs may seem crazy. In fact, why would you put your body through effort when you’re breathless most of the time anyway? Even though it might seem scary at first, the fact is that exercise is good for everyone. You just have to start slowly, be patient and find an exercise program that fits your needs.

3. Don’t start alone: Let’s be honest: nobody likes to exercise alone. In fact, most people give up exercising because they don’t feel motivated when they don’t have anyone holding them accountable. So if you’re just starting to exercise, make sure you do it with a friend, a family member or someone you feel comfortable with.

MORE: Can pulmonary hypertension be prevented?

4. Be careful with outdoor temperature: You can’t control the weather, and while you may want to exercise, you have to keep in mind that it may not be the right time for it. Be careful with the outdoor temperature to avoid colds or even dehydration.

5. Alternate upper and lower body exercises: It’s probably best to avoid exercises that work your upper and lower body at the same time. Lifting small weights to strengthen your upper body is fine and leg lifts are fine, just don’t do them together. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are doing the right exercises–it’s possible your physician will tell you to avoid exercises that require you to raise your arms over your head as this makes the heart work harder.

6. Try walking or swimming: Walking or swimming are both good options for cardiovascular activity because they allow you to move and be active without taking a lot out of you.

MORE: Six of the best apps for managing chronic diseases

7. Exercise with your oxygen: Even though it might seem extremely difficult to exercise because you’re usually out of breath, exercising while using oxygen may help. Carrying your oxygen bottle around may not be comfortable but it can be very helpful.

8. Give yourself some breaks: Don’t rush. Take your time and exercise carefully. Remember that you take as much as you possibly can, but don’t exceed your limits. If you’re running out of breath or getting tired very quickly, slow down and take a rest, and then, slowly start your exercise again.

9. Stop if you’re not feeling well: If you’re not feeling OK, stop your exercise. Pulmonary hypertension is a serious condition, it can leave you breathless when you less expect it, especially when you’re moving and putting your body through effort. If you feel unwell, stop your exercise until you’re feeling better — even if that means you’ll have to finish training another day.

MORE: 10 essentials to create an emergency kit for pulmonary hypertension patients

Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. Red says:

    Thank you for this, I do all of this. Where I am challenged is figuring out the balance between the energy I expend & the post days fatigue. I try to exercise big muscle groups – less energy that smaller muscle groups… but when I exert energy, it seems to steal from my next couple day stores. Any suggestions for figuring out what that balance is for me – no one seems to know. Anyone have some thoughts?

  2. Amy Peeples says:

    I run between 3-5 miles everyday . Diagnosed 3/8/17 with pressures at 168. I have a great doctor and he has not only saved my life but made it better then I could have ever asked for . All this with a Remodulin / Letaris / Adcirca combo.

  3. Andrea Rice says:

    Patience isn’t easy to have or obtain it must be practiced over and over again as if learning it for the very first time. I’ve always be led to believe to acquire patience one has to stand in long lines at the grocery store or the bank on a Friday evening. The longer the lines the better. Without judgment of others if any problems occur as the cashier is new and is this is their first day, or when a cashier can’t figure out how to count change when the register stops working. Basic math people, not algebra!!

    For me with exercise I want to go back and take yoga again because I felt so good afterwards and really looked forward to being part of the class atmosphere. I also want to take and try a hip hop dance class. I watch many videos of various ages of people doing this style of dance and of course I know I can’t dance as fast as some of them do because of my limitations with this illness but I’d at least want to give it a try. What can it hurt? If I ask my doctor and she says no then I will unfortunately make the decision to watch and not engage. And bowling. Used to be on a league in middle school and got a patch for bowling 150 the highest score ever got even to this day haven’t been able to break the score, and I get I may have to bowl like kids do with both hands pushing the ball down the lane because it’s unbalanced weight throwing it with one hand, so I wouldn’t mind changing from one hand with the ball to both hands.

    Going to the gym is very boring for me, this is why I look forward to going to the pulmonary rehab clinic where I am around professionals that work with people like me that have a chronic illness and an exercise program can be designed for my needs only. I’ve read many stories about folks that enjoy going there, so I have hopes I can get there one day to.

    Swimming is also good for the body but I can’t swim and almost drowned once so for me I could feel comfortable walking in the pool in the shallow end back and forth that may or may not be recommended in my exercise program. Walking long distances without shortness of breath will be the best for me because I haven’t been able to do this since I was a young adult. I have fond memories of hiking and exploring and would like to do this again.

    Thank you for tips in this article as I believe many don’t consider what is best for them and follow what is popular and everyone else is doing. I remember aerobics and how I didn’t like it and opted for modern dance classes after high school.

    I look forward to finding out what my body will allow me to do with exercise and having Pulmonary Hypertension.

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