A lung cancer diagnosis is daunting for sure, and the treatment can be, too. This new lifestyle may present many new challenges for you, including the task of rebuilding your lungs and making them strong once again. Pulmonary rehabilitation, or pulmonary rehab, is a fairly common recommendation for people with chronic or serious lung disease. It’s a multi-faceted approach that helps you improve the function of your lungs. Typically, you will work with a team of professionals, which may include a respiratory therapist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and your pulmonologist, among others. The goal: to strengthen your lungs and to improve your quality of life. Find some inspiration in what you can accomplish by dedicating yourself to making your lungs stronger, and you may surprise even yourself. Strengthen your lungs with physical exercise. If it seems like every expert recommends quitting smoking and taking up exercise, it’s for good reason! Besides improving your overall health, consider these other benefits of embracing exercise: You can build strength and endurance. You may tolerate cancer treatments more easily. Your energy levels may improve. Plus, exercise may help you cope better with the emotional impact of having lung cancer. In turn, that may help you feel better, which is no small thing. What should an exercise program for a person recovering from lung cancer look like? Your doctor is likely to suggest an exercise program that includes a combination of three types of activity: Stretching exercises. Stretching your upper body can help increase your lung capacity, helping to make lungs stronger. It can also improve your range of motion and increase blood flow. Aerobic activity. You can improve your oxygen capacity and your heart health by engaging in some good old aerobic activity, like walking or riding a bike, several times per week. Strength training. Strength training is good for building up muscles that have weakened during your illness and treatment. Depending on your overall health, you might need to work with a physical therapist to get started. You don’t want to risk injury by trying to do too much, too soon, so you’ll want to start slow and see how your body responds. In fact, starting slow and building from there is the best advice for anyone who’s adding physical activity to their life. If you stick with it, you’ll gradually strengthen your lungs. Make time for breathing exercises. Another important component of building your lung function: breathing exercises. Surgery and radiation are common treatments for lung cancer, but they can substantially reduce your lungs’ ability to function fully. Have you noticed that you often feel short of breath? That’s a common after-effect of lung cancer treatment. Breathing exercises are designed to help you build your lung capacity, which will help you breathe easier and feel less fatigued. A respiratory therapist can teach you how to perform a series of breathing exercises. Your diaphragm, which is a thin muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest, contracts when you inhale and draws air into your lungs. But during the course of your treatment, the diaphragm may weaken. You’ll work to strengthen that muscle–and by extension, you’ll be strengthening your body’s ability to bring in plenty of fresh oxygen. Other goals of breathing exercises include: Reducing shortness of breath. Set (or re-set) a correct breathing pattern. Reduce the energy you expend while breathing. One exercise you might learn to do is pursed-lip breathing. How to do it: inhale through your nose, then slowly exhale through your mouth–but make sure your lips are pursed while you breathe out. This method helps you reduce the number of breaths you take while keeping your airway open for a longer period of time. With a greater flow of air in and out of your lungs, your fatigue levels will decrease and your energy levels will go up, allowing you to be more physically active. Include other ways to stay healthy. Exercise and breathing exercises will go a long way toward helping you build up your lung function. But don’t forget about the other steps you can take. Eat a healthy diet, get an annual influenza vaccination, and protect your lungs as much as possible from outside irritants like pollution, secondhand smoke, and radon. If you have any questions about the best strategies for you, be sure to consult your doctor.