Frequently Asked Questions

Do Pulmonary Rehabilitation programs accept insurance?  

Generally, PR programs accept insurance if you have been given a prescription to attend it, but insurance coverage varies between different programs and insurance policies. Therefore, the out of pocket cost to you, including any co-pays, can vary greatly.

Before you enroll in a PR program, ask the staff to help you determine what your out of pocket costs will be, including any extras, such as transportation or parking.  You may also want to check with your insurance company about the co-pay costs.

Can I enter Pulmonary Rehabilitation if I smoke? 

Some programs offer help with quitting. Other PR programs require that you stop smoking before beginning the program. PR, medications, and quitting smoking cannot reverse whatever permanent lung damage you may have from cigarettes, but it can prevent further damage. If you smoke, make a serious effort to quit. Get help if needed. Stopping smoking is an important part of getting stronger and healthier.

How does a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program work? 

PR is the beginning of a lifestyle change.  The formal program will last up to 12 weeks, but the goal is to help with changes in lifestyle that will be lifelong. Though all programs are not the same, the typical program components and structure is as follows:

  1. You will have a thorough assessment at the beginning of PR.  This will help structure the program to your individual abilities, limitations, medical needs and goals.

  2. During group sessions, you will meet others with breathing problems. You will also have the opportunity to work closely with and interact regularly with one or more healthcare professionals on the PR healthcare team. Together, these interactions give you time to ask questions, share concerns, and learn hands-on approaches to living with breathing problems and tackling common challenges.

  3. Your progress will be monitored throughout the course of the program.

  4. You will participate in exercises that are geared to your abilities.  This typically includes exercises for both your arms and legs, including walking, riding a stationary bicycle, doing arm exercises and weight training.

  5. You will receive recommendations on exercise you can do at home (between sessions and after the formal program is over).

  6. You will be evaluated weekly to find out if your exercise program should be changed. This is all part of increasing your strength and endurance (stamina) to do exercise.

  7. If you need supplemental oxygen, in many programs, it will be provided. Your oxygen level will be monitored during your exercise training.

  8. Educational topics are aimed at helping you manage your disease better (see list, below, of class topic examples).

  9. Nutritional guidance may be provided, including strategies to reach or maintain a proper weight.

  10. After the formal program is over, you will be encouraged to continue with exercise and physical activity.  Some programs offer a maintenance program or an ongoing support group for individuals with breathing problems, such as a better breather support group.

What topics are covered in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation educational classes? 

Below are examples of some of the topics that may be covered in the educational component of the PR program:

  1. Living with a chronic breathing problem
  2. How your lungs work
  3. How changes in your lungs cause your symptoms
  4. What your medicines do, and why you need them
  5. How to use your inhalers and/or nebulizer to get the most benefit out of them
  6. How to monitor your symptoms and know when to call your healthcare provider
  7. How to avoid being hospitalized because of your breathing problem
  8. Breathing techniques to decrease your shortness of breath and manage your daily activities
  9. How to travel more easily with your breathing condition
  10. Proper nutrition
  11. If you are on oxygen, how to use it, and help with deciding what might be the best oxygen system for you
  12. How and why to use breathing assist machines such as CPAP
  13. Living wills and options for life support if breathing fails

In addition to the topics listed above, the educational classes serve as an open forum to discuss other topics. These sessions provide an opportunity for you to ask questions, share concerns, and learn hands-on approaches to living with breathing problems and tackling common challenges.

How do I enroll in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program?  What happens after I complete the PR program? 

The things you learn and practice during the program should carry over into your daily life after the program ends. If you stop exercising after the program, the improvements you made will soon be lost. The staff will work with you to design a long-term plan of physical activity and exercise for you. The staff will teach you how and when to exercise at home. Many programs offer a "maintenance" plan so that you can continue to exercise with others who have breathing problems. Once you know how to exercise safely, you will have the skills to continue. You might even consider going to a local exercise facility; discuss with your PR team how you can best continue exercising with the facility’s equipment. Additionally, many individuals may able to attend an exercise facility free of charge through Medicare plans such as Medicare Advantage or Medigap through the “SilverSneakers” program. To continue getting social support and education about living well with lung disease, you can sign up for an American Lung Association Better Breathers Club program in your area at