Almost all women with LAM have difficulty breathing. But each woman who exercises—no matter how little she exercises—feels better (maybe not immediately, but in the long run) for doing so. Doctors have seen great results in women who exercise.
The best way to get started is in a pulmonary-rehabilitation program. Ask your doctor to refer you to a pulmonary-rehab center that is near you and that fits your needs. At pulmonary rehab, exercise physiologists or other trained personnel supervise your workouts. This supervision is very important because your oxygen saturation level (the amount of oxygen in the blood, called an “O2 sat”) and heart rate must be closely monitored to ensure that the exercise is helping—not hurting—you. The people at pulmonary rehab are specially trained to help you improve your level of fitness. They’ll devise a workout plan for you, and they’ll monitor and support you every step of the way.
The staff of a rehab center is specially trained to teach you how to move on with your life, and becoming more fit is just the beginning. LAM affects all of you, not just your lungs. As you become fitter, you’ll learn your body’s capabilities and you’ll become more confident. You’ll feel more comfortable in your ability to live as you choose to live.
If you are using supplemental oxygen, the rehab staff will help you learn what liter flow you need for different kinds of activities. The volume of your supplemental oxygen flow is measured in liters per minute (LPM). You’ll learn what liter flow you need to perform the tasks you face every day. For example, when you’re vacuuming, you might require four or five LPM, but when you’re watching TV, you can turn the flow down to two liters.
If you have not used oxygen before, the rehab staff will advise you if they feel oxygen would help you exercise more safely and productively. At pulmonary rehab, supplemental oxygen is available to those who need it, and your oxygen saturation levels are monitored so that you’re always getting sufficient oxygen. If your oxygen saturation drops while you’re on the treadmill, try to continue at your assigned speed, but increase your oxygen flow—this maximizes the effectiveness of your efforts. And, if you exercise at a pulmonary rehabilitation center, you can usually use their oxygen while you’re there at no cost to you.
If your lung disease has progressed far enough for you to be evaluated and listed for a lung transplant, you’ll discover that most lung-transplantation teams require your attendance at a pulmonary-rehabilitation program as a part of your preparation for the surgery. Transplant doctors want you to be as strong and as healthy as possible before you receive your new lungs. Not only will you recover more easily from the surgery, but you’ll also enjoy an improved quality of life.
Goals of Pulmonary Rehab
- Manage or alleviate respiratory symptoms and complications
- Increase exercise tolerance
- Decrease anxiety and depression
- Learn to carry out activities of daily living more efficiently
- Promote independence and self-reliance
- Promote social and recreational interactions
- Encourage employment options
- Ensure cardiac well-being through adequate O2 levels