How to Return to Exercise After Pneumonia Without Overdoing It

The lungs are complex organs primarily made up of tiny sacs, or alveoli. Pneumonia is an infection of these sacs that weakens the structures of the respiratory system. So coming back to health after you have had pneumonia may take time.

Exercise increases your respiration and will be difficult until your lungs heal. Starting slowly and including a breathing exercise can get you back on the right track. Only your doctor will know whether you are ready to start working out again.

Tip

Return to your exercise routine after pneumonia only when your doctor has cleared you. Then, start at about 50-percent intensity and slowly increase the duration and intensity of your workout each week. Practice breathing techniques to help strengthen your lungs.

Pneumonia Recovery and Rest

Pneumonia recovery can take a few weeks or several months. Signs that your pneumonia is improving after you start treatment include your fever breaking, easing of chest pain and reduction of mucus production in your chest.

You will likely still feel weak and fatigued, so respect your body and get plenty of rest. Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. Stay hydrated, follow your doctor's instructions and take medications as prescribed.

Failing to do so may result in a relapse or complications such as respiratory failure or lung abscess. If your symptoms worsen or your fever returns, consult your doctor.

Tip

Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air to help to open your airways and make breathing easier.

Breathing to Strengthen Lungs

Practicing breathing techniques helps to strengthen your lungs, ease breathing and increase your oxygen levels.

Pursed-Lip Breathing: This technique is recommended by the American Lung Association. To do it, take a full breath in through your nose. Purse your lips and exhale through your mouth, making sure the exhale is twice as long as the inhale.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Place your hands on your stomach so that you can feel it rise and fall as you breathe. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed, allowing your diaphragm to do the work. Take a full breath in through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. The exhale should be at least twice as long as the inhale.

Warning

You may experience coughing when practicing breathing exercises. Coughing is how your body removes phlegm from your lungs. Consult your doctor before taking cough medicine.

Returning to Exercise After Pneumonia

When your doctor clears you to return to exercise after pneumonia, begin by taking short walks of up to 20 minutes. Pay attention to your body and your breathing. If you become short of breath, stop and take a break.

For your normal workout routine, begin at approximately 50 percent of your original intensity and duration, says Stephen Rice, M.D., in an interview with WebMD. Moving forward, increase your exercise time and intensity by 10 percent per week until you are back to your pre-pneumonia workout level. The higher your fitness level before getting sick, the faster you will likely be able to return to fitness.

Warning

If at any time you have chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness, slow down or stop for the day. Consult your doctor if these symptoms continue.

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