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Fitness After Lung Transplant Surgery

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Rodney Simcox, RRT, manager of pulmonary rehabilitation, and Sarah R. Tokarczyk, PT, DPT, acute care lead therapist and physical therapist, give tips for taking care of yourself and safely exercising after a lung transplant.

It’s no secret that regular exercise can boost energy, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, promote weight loss, and improve muscle tone, strength and endurance. But for lung transplant patients, exercise can be an even more important tool to strengthen the heart and lungs, as well as to decrease risk factors for heart, lung and vascular disease.

Set Small Goals First

The most important thing you can do is to set small, attainable goals. Routinely performing several exercises to challenge your muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility will help you meet your bigger fitness goals.

Stretch your limbs

Stretching allows improved flexibility as well as additional blood flow to the muscle and is considered very important as a warm up prior to endurance exercise or training. It can also help to improve posture, which in turn can help increase ventilation of the lungs.

Exercise your heart

Endurance exercise, or cardiovascular exercise, uses large muscle groups in your arms or legs and involves using these muscles continuously for a certain amount of time. These exercises may include biking and walking. Start with short distances and times, and work toward an increased length of time to 30 to 45 minutes.

Strengthen your muscles

Strength exercises are performed with weights or resistance bands for maintaining and improving muscles in the arms, legs and trunk. A strength exercise is measurable by weight amount and number of times you perform the exercise, also called repetitions. Maybe you want to walk for 45 minutes every day, or keep up with your kids and grandchildren. Whatever your fitness goals are for 2011, you don’t need a fancy gym membership or expensive equipment to reach them.

Tips for Exercising Safely

It’s never too late to set goals for fitness after lung transplant surgery. Whether it's through a gym, pulmonary rehab or a home exercise program, you'll benefit from exercising after lung transplant surgery. Remember to always check with your physician before beginning any fitness program.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • The best time to exercise is two hours before or after eating.
  • Do not exercise in extreme temperatures.
  • Remember to “warm up” and “cool down” to avoid injury.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  • Pace your breathing while exercising; you should be able to count to 15 out loud in one to two breaths. If you need to take additional breaths, you are working too hard.
  • If you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, palpitations, or sudden weakness or discomfort in your chest, jaw, neck or arms, stop the exercise and seek medical attention.

What are your fitness goals? What are you going to do to make your goal a reality?

If you're interested in enrolling in the pulmonary rehab program at Penn Medicine, please call Rodney Simcox at 215-662-6482.

About this Blog

The Penn Medicine Transplant blog features short postings with news about the transplant program at Penn Medicine, notices about upcoming events and health information. Subscribe to the blog and stay connected with Penn's Transplant Program!

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