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Sing for pulmonary rehabilitation

People who experience breathlessness because of lung disease often stay away from exercise in case it makes their condition worse. We need to help them change their way of thinking.

Being a member of one of the British Lung Foundation’s Breathe Easy groups – Nottingham West – I’ve seen how people can benefit from exercise, once they overcome their initial concerns and fears about pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). One of the many benefits is the education and the mutual support from other members, who have participated in PR already.

PR and Breathe Easy groups have both been shown to be cost effective in terms of improving quality of life, and in reducing GP visits. PR has been clinically shown to improve exercise capacity and muscle strength, helping patients to deal with their breathlessness. They can even do the course again, after a year, to top up the benefits.

The British Lung Foundation have developed an excellent COPD passport, which empowers patients and lists the areas that need to be covered during a doctor’s appointment, including the prescription of PR.  Discussions explaining the benefits of PR should be a priority in consultations. NICE currently recommends pulmonary rehabilitation for people suffering from COPD, but other patients can benefit as well, such as those with asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and bronchiectasis. It is important that we work with commissioners to ensure courses are sufficiently resourced to give access to rehab for those patients who need it. On Twitter, you’ll find #pulmonaryrehabweekuk – taking place between 19-23 June. It’s a great way to raise awareness of the many benefits of PR.

At our Integrated Breath Easy group in Nottingham West, we welcome everyone, including those who are just at the start of their lung health journey. We also have a twice weekly exercise class; a follow on from PR, using exercises that can be done on three levels, depending on ability. Even patients with oxygen can safely exercise and be monitored at level one. Most people find it fun and enjoyable, helping them to stay active by using the techniques they have learned.

Our Breathe Easy group recently recorded a 30-minute ‘chair based’ exercise DVD, which has been sent to all 230 Breathe Easy support groups throughout the UK. The idea is to suggest exercise as an option to anyone who is housebound because of their condition, and to all those who are recovering from an exacerbation, or just don’t like exercising in groups.

Breathe Easy Week takes place between 12-16 June, when lots of Breathe Easy groups are campaigning for clean air. Some, like mine, will be getting across their messages in song! They’ll be showing that singing regularly as part of a group is good for general health and wellbeing, especially if you have a lung condition.

Singing helps with deeper and more controlled breathing. Someone with an obstructive airways disease, such as COPD, will often need to take constant ‘top-up’ breaths from their upper chest. Singing for lung health helps to increase lung capacity, strengthens the muscles, resulting in more confident and controlled breathing. We have just started a new group that combines a session of seated body and brain exercise and a singing session . After a warm up, we start by singing the golden oldies, building to a crescendo with Cilla Black’s You are My World! It‘s inspiring and fun and it’s becoming very popular.

At Nottingham West Breathe Easy, we’re planning to record our own song to encourage people with a lung condition to sing, and to raise money for the British Lung Foundation. As a nurse, who has worked in respiratory care for most of my career, I feel passionate about supporting people who can get so much benefit from Breathe Easy groups, wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances. All 230 Breathe Easy groups are empowering people to manage their condition and improve their enjoyment of life at the same time, it’s a great way for me to spend my retirement. Extremely rewarding.

The British Lung Foundation’s Breathe Easy Week is taking place between 12-16 June 2017.

Teresa Burgoyne
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