When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters


When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters

About Pulmonary Rehab

Pulmonary rehab is a program of education and exercise that helps you manage your breathing problems, increase your stamina (energy) and decrease your breathlessness. The education part of the program teaches you to be “in charge” of your breathing instead of your breathing being in charge of you. You will learn how to pace your breathing with your activities, how to take your medicines and how to talk with your healthcare provider.

The exercise sessions are supervised by cardiopulmonary physiotherapists, who design an exercise program just for you. The exercises start at a level that you can handle (some people start exercising while sitting and others on a treadmill). The amount of time you exercise will be increased in time and the level of difficulty will change based on your ability. As your muscles get stronger, you will exercise longer with less breathlessness and be less tired.

Benefits of Pulmonary Rehab

Pulmonary rehabilitation seeks to reduce symptoms of dyspnoea, re-establish and improve functional ability, enhance participation in everyday life and improve health related quality of life.

The exercise component increases muscle function; delaying fatigue, and resulting in increased exercise tolerance. The educational component focuses on collaborative self-management and behaviour change. It encompasses providing patient specific information and knowledge; building skills such as goal setting, problem solving and decision making and developing action plans that allow individuals to better recognise and manage the disease.

Who should pulmonary rehabilitation be made available to?

Patients diagnosed with a chronic respiratory condition, experiencing shortness of breath as a result (MRC > 2). Conditions include: Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sarcoidosis, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, bronchiectasis etc.

Patients awaiting or recovering from lung transplant surgery

Patients awaiting or recovering from heart transplant surgery

Patients recovering from a long-term stay in hospital, especially the intensive care unit

Patients awaiting any type of thoracic or upper abdominal surgery

Athletes experiencing shortness of breath or poor breathing patterns hindering performance

Program Structure

An icon representing the assessment phase of the pulmonary rehab programme.

Subjective Assessment

Icon representing the physical assessment stage of the pulmonary rehab program

Physical Assessment

Icon representing a goal set in a pulmonary rehab situation

Goal Setting


Home Exercise Program


Following the initial assessment, a pulmonary rehab program will be structured and tailored to suit your individual needs. This ensures that you benefit maximally from the exercise training segment of the program.

Treatment sessions will incorporate various training methods:

Endurance Training

 To condition the muscles of ambulation and improve cardiorespiratory fitness. This will facilitate an increase in physical activity, associated with a reduction in breathlessness and fatigue

Strength Training

To increase muscle strength in the upper and lower extremities, which aids improvement in functionally related tasks

Balance and Flexibility Training

To correct postural abnormalities associated with chronic respiratory diseases. Postural abnormalities are associated with a decline in pulmonary function, decreased quality of life, poor bone mineral density and increased work of breathing

Inspiratory Muscle Training

The reduced pressure-generating capacity of the inspiratory muscles contributes to both exercise intolerance and the perception of dyspnoea in individuals

Breathing Re-training

To regulate abnormal breathing patterns, where applicable. Techniques to manage breathlessness and conserve energy will also be taught and implemented during sessions

Re-assessment and Maintenance

At the end of the program, all baseline measurements documented during the initial assessment, will be re-assessed to determine your progress and potential discharge into a maintenance care program.

Maintenance programs are in the form of supervised group classes, or unsupervised at home.

Regular attendance of group classes, enables your physical therapist to monitor for any deterioration in your condition, and to act accordingly.


Who provides the service?

The program involves the input of your treating pulmonologist and physiotherapist. Other relevant referrals will be discussed, if deemed necessary

Where are you located?

Kuilsriver: Work Rehab Building. 2 Kamp Street; Mabille Park (Northern Suburbs)

Vincent Pallotti: Basement floor, Dick Williamson Medical Suites (Southern Suburbs)

Why exercise?

Exercise training improves your exercise tolerance; functional performance; health related quality of life; psychological status and symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath. Exercise also aims to reduce the number of hospital re-admissions

How long is the pulmonary rehab program?

The extent of the program is patient specific, however a minimum of eight weeks is strongly advised. You will attend two supervised sessions per week (if possible), each session is 45 – 60 minutes in duration. The sessions will focus on improving exercise capacity; peripheral muscle strength, respiratory muscle strength and patient education. In addition to supervised sessions, you will be expected to complete a home exercise program, designed and issued to you by your physiotherapist. You are expected to complete these exercises on the days that they are not at the rehabilitation centre

What will I be doing?

  • Endurance training
  • Strength training
  • Inspiratory muscle training
  • Balance and flexibility training
  • Breathing re-training

What do I bring?

  • Suitable clothing and shoes
  • Necessary assistive devices
  • Portable oxygen (If necessary)
  • Necessary medication
  • No heavy meals prior to exercise

What happens when I finish the program?

Upon completion of the program, it is of utmost importance that you continue to exercise, so that all improvements achieved during the rehabilitation phase are maintained.

Self-management of your condition needs to become a way of life. To assist you in this regard, a maintenance program will be discussed with you, upon completion of the program (Usually in the form of a group exercise class).

Will there be any follow-up?

A follow-up may be requested by the patient, during which the initial assessment tests will be repeated. Your maintenance program will then be revised and altered to suit you, so that you may continue to progress in your effort to manage your physical and respiratory status

Group classes are also available as an aid to your self-maintenance program

What is the cost?

We treat private and medical aid patients. Please note: Medical aids often do not cover sessions on an out-patient basis, but each medical aid will differ in this regard. Please contact us directly with your specific query

Do I need a referral form a doctor?


How do I book an appointment?

Choose which of our branches would be most suitable for you, then call us on 021-903 8677 and request your preferred day/time and we will try our best to accommodate you

Monday & Wednesday: Kuilsriver branch only

Tuesday & Thursday: Vincent Palotti branch only

Friday: On request


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