If your shortness of breath from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is getting worse, your doctor might recommend pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). This type of rehab is intended for people with chronic breathing difficulties related to a variety of lung diseases. Aside from IPF, PR is also used to help those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Here are some of the important benefits of PR so you can determine if it’s right for you.

1. You’ll learn new breathing techniques

Perhaps the most uncomfortable aspect of IPF is the inability to breathe the way you used to. PR is designed to teach you different breathing techniques to make you more comfortable.

These breathing techniques will help you take in more oxygen, which may prevent further scarring and other IPF-related complications. You’ll also build endurance so you can exercise for longer and more often.

2. PR can help you maintain an active lifestyle

Because it gets harder to breathe when living with IPF, you probably won’t be able to get as much exercise. When you first start PR, you’ll undergo tests to measure your overall fitness and exercise capabilities. Your therapist may also measure your muscle mass.

With this information, your PR therapist can recommend specific workouts to help increase your fitness and exercise capabilities. They may also teach you how to breathe correctly during periods of activity so you don’t get winded too soon. If your oxygen levels are low, oxygen therapy may be used.

3. A nutritionist may guide your diet

PR often consists of a team of experts. One of these may include a nutritionist.

Loss of appetite and breathing problems that make it harder to eat are common in IPF. Because of this, you may experience unintentional weight loss. Weight loss from a lack of eating can quickly impact your health in a negative way by depleting your body of important nutrients it needs to keep functioning.

On the other hand, if you have excess weight, this can increase your shortness of breath.

During PR, a nutritionist can work with you to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. They will also offer meal plans and strategies to help ensure you’re able to eat comfortably.

4. PR may reduce stress and improve your coping skills

IPF can undoubtedly be stressful. Over time, you may even experience anxiety and depression. While mental health concerns are best addressed with a mental health professional, your daily lifestyle can still make an impact on your emotional well-being.

The changes you make in PR with exercise and diet can help decrease both anxiety and depression. You may even learn some coping skills to help you manage your stress levels.

5. You’ll gain valuable resources

Education is a key component of PR. Since the program lasts about a few months, your team will want to make sure you have the resources you need once your rehab ends. You will learn more about IPF, the symptoms to look out for, and long-term management strategies.

Through PR, you may even find IPF support groups and local events. Also, while PR doesn’t replace your usual doctor visits, you can still gain information about medications and other treatment options.

6. You’ll gain more energy

Exercise, a healthy diet, and self-care complement one another to keep you at your best, most energetic self. Fatigue from IPF is common, and it may be related to not being able to eat and work out, or possible anxiety and depression.

Over time, your efforts in your PR sessions can pay off, and you may find you have more energy to do the things you used to enjoy.

7. Your symptoms may improve

All the facets of PR work together to help improve your IPF symptoms. Breathing techniques are often a priority, but other rehab features such as nutrition and stress management also affect your body’s ability to fight this disease.

While PR doesn’t directly improve lung function, it will help you make the most of your lungs’ current function. This can result in fewer breathing problems and other symptoms, such as dry cough.

The takeaway

The benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation for IPF are undisputable. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that PR can’t replace your medical treatment plan. Both approaches can work together to help you manage IPF symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Before you get started, know that PR is a big commitment on your part. If you’re on the fence about this form of therapy, see if you can participate in a meet-and-greet or make a trial appointment first. Like any form of therapy, consistency with PR is key to gaining the maximum benefits.

While there are generally few risks with this form of rehab, certain exercises may not be best for you. Overall, the benefits of PR outweigh the risks, but always talk to your doctor first.