Exercise to Build Healthy Lungs

Find the right activity for you

Exercise enhances your mood and shape, but did you know it can help improve your breathing? Regular physical activity helps your body make use of the oxygen you breathe, often called your lung function. People with lung disease, such as COPD, tend to use more energy to breathe compared to others. By exercising regularly, they can decrease their symptoms and improve their breathing.

Get moving

Even though lung disease can limit the amount of air you take in, you can improve how well your body uses the air. When you exercise, your lungs and heart are hard at work. Together, they bring oxygen into the body and deliver it to the muscles being used. This improves circulation and strengthens the tissue around your lungs, helping them function.

Spending 30 minutes a day, five days a week doing some endurance or aerobic activities is great for improving lung function and health. For instance, you could try:

  • Brisk walking or jogging

  • Yard work (mowing, raking, digging)

  • Dancing

  • Swimming

  • Biking

  • Climbing stairs

Team up with your doctor

Before starting any exercise routine, make an appointment to talk with your health care provider. Ask about what workouts you should try, as well as how often you should do them. If you have a registered account on My HealtheVet try recording your exercises in the physical activity journal. This allows you to track and share your progress with your health care team.

Stop exercising right away and contact your healthcare provider if you feel any of these:

  • Unusual or increasing shortness of breath

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Burning, tightness, heaviness, or pressure in your chest

  • Unusual aching in your arms, shoulder, neck, jaw, or back

  • A racing or skipping heartbeat

  • Feeling much more tired than usual

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or nausea

  • Unusual joint pain

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Read More

Exercising with Chronic Lung Disease: Tips for Getting Started (Veterans Health Library)

Chronic Lung Disease: Becoming More Active (Veterans Health Library)

Your Lungs and Exercise (NIH)

Benefits of Exercise (MedlinePlus) 

Updated October 27, 2022