Years ago, doctors used to believe that people with pulmonary hypertension (PH) should avoid exercise as dangerous to their health. More recently, most PH specialists have come to believe that regular sessions of gentle exercise are safe and likely beneficial for those with PH. Even small amounts of physical activity may help improve symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, faintness, swelling, and irregular heart rhythm. Exercise also provides the same benefits to people with PH as it does to everyone else. Exercise promotes healthy weight, bone density, strength and flexibility, staves off complications such as diabetes, and improves mood and quality of life.
Fatigue and breathlessness lead many people with PH to give up on exercise and become increasingly sedentary. Many people with PH believe that exercise will cause their symptoms to become worse. However, the reverse is more likely to be true. Physical activity can improve symptoms, while remaining sedentary exacerbates symptoms and contributes to the development of osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.
What does it involve?
Check with your doctor before beginning new exercise regimen. Medical supervision is very important for people exercising with PH. Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonary rehabilitation program designed to meet your specific exercise needs and provide a safe way to get started exercising.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Start slowly and gently. Stop your exercise session immediately if you become short of breath or light-headed. If you experience chest pains while exercising, talk to your doctor before exercising again. Avoid types of exercise that involve using your arms and legs at the same time, such as a NordicTrack machine. Avoid exercising outside when the weather is very humid, hot, or cold. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine.
If you have severe PH or have not been physically active lately, begin exercising for just a few minutes at a time. Use supplemental oxygen if you need it. Try not to become discouraged if you cannot do very much exercise. Focus on slow, gradual progress.
It is important to choose a type of exercise you will enjoy. If you doctor approves, consider joining a class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects.
Aerobic exercise helps to keep your heart healthy. Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Walking, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, or swimming can all provide effective exercise for your heart and lungs.
Resistance training such as lifting weights can be done seated, and it can involve as light a weight as you are comfortable lifting. Even small amounts of weight or resistance – for instance, lifting your arms or legs repeatedly against gravity – provide benefits.
Be creative. Activities such as gardening and walking a pet can help you stay active and healthy.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning an exercise regimen. Focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. If you experience new or worse PH symptoms, adjust your workout program to keep it safe and rewarding.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best physical and psychological condition. A regular exercise regimen can reduce breathlessness and fatigue, increase strength, promote healthy weight, stave off diabetes and osteoporosis, and improve your mood and self-esteem. It can help you avoid injury and recover more quickly.
There have been few studies exploring the relationship between PH and exercise. Small studies have indicated that regular, gentle exercise likely provides significant benefits of improved physical function and mental health to people with PH.
PH symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, and breathlessness can make it difficult to stay motivated to keep up with exercise. Side effects of medication such as nausea and dizziness can also interfere.
If you exercise too hard, you may feel more pain than usual for a day or two afterwards. Soreness is a sign that you should take it a little easier next time. If one type of exercise does not work for you, consider trying another.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Exercise and Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension – Pulmonary Hypertension R.N.
Exercise and PH – Pulmonary Hypertension Association
Exercise For Pulmonary Hypertension – Pulmonary Hypertension News
Exercise Training and Pulmonary Rehabilitation in the Pulmonary Hypertension Patient – Pulmonary Hypertension Association Online University