Pulmonary hypertension (PH) can cause significant shortness of breath with exertion and fatigue, making activity and exercise difficult. It is nevertheless quite beneficial for patients living with chronic disease, including PH, to maintain an active lifestyle. Indeed, exercise is an integral component of the evidence-based recommendations for managing patients with PH.

Why exercise?
Exercise can have a lot of positive effects on your health. Regular exercise can improve your mental as well as your physical health. With regular exercise you will increase your stamina and strength and be able to do more everyday activities as well as many of the things you enjoy. Research consistently shows that physical training improves exercise capacity, quality of life, muscle function and blood flow in the lungs. In one study, patients who participated in a structured program for 15 weeks had a significant improvement in the distance they could walk in 6 minutes while those who did not had a decrease in distance walked.

Are there any specific programs for patients with PH?
Though considered very safe, exercise is thought to be one of the most underutilized forms of therapy for PH. When possible, patients should be referred to a supervised monitored exercise program such as pulmonary or cardiac rehabilitation. These programs combine education, and exercise in a group setting. With a prescription from your doctor, Medicare or private insurance may cover the cost of these programs. If you do not have access to a program, check for local community facilities, some of which have no or reduced costs. If supervision and monitoring isn’t available, develop an exercise program in conjunction with your PH team that is safe for you.

What kind of exercises can I perform when living with PH?
Exercises you can perform will depend primarily on what kind of PH you have, how severe your disease is and your other underlying health conditions. Before beginning any exercise program, it's very important to consult with your PH providers.

Examples of exercises for patients with PH include:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Resistance training for small muscle groups
  • Stretching

Ultimately, the most effective exercise is the one you can do most consistently.

What to avoid?
Work closely with your PH team to determine how best to approach more rigorous exercise and how to increase your activity safely. In general, when you have PH, it is recommended to avoid exercises that involve bending, lifting heavy weights (often more than 20 lbs) or pushing against heavy resistance. If you develop chest pain or discomfort or become light-headed or dizzy with exercise, the activity was too strenuous. If these symptoms occur, stop for rest and recovery. Discuss the symptoms with your PH provider to make changes in your exercise routine and to determine if your symptoms need to be further evaluated. Do not exercise to the point of severe breathlessness. If severe breathlessness is a 10 on a 1-10 scale, limit exercise to around 7/10 on the breathlessness score. Always use your supplemental oxygen as directed during exercise and avoid low oxygen readings (less than 88% if you have a monitor to measure your oxygen level).


This information is intended for educational purposes only and not to be used to change or direct medical care. This information should not replace direction by your treating care team and all medical management should be directed by your PH treating physician and your care team.
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