Our Pulmonary Rehabilitation Team in Blackburn has been improving people’s physical health and subsequently, their mental health with regular exercise classes.

Julie Petony said:

"Being out of breath is horrible when you have a lung condition, so people start avoidance behaviour and stop doing things that get them out of breath. They get more breathless as a result, in a cycle of inactivity and breathlessness and anxiety, which is where physical health and mental health overlap.

Here we desensitise them to breathlessness by getting them physically active at their own pace, incorporating any limitations.”

Julie is an advanced practitioner in our pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) team overseeing patients in the gym at Darwen Leisure Centre. One of her services users, John, is 76 and on an exercise bike. In August he had a double lung transplant.

He said:

“I used to have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, when I first came to the classes I was on eight litres of oxygen before I had a transplant. I honestly don’t think I’d be here without the PR Team. These classes are brilliant, I really don’t think I’d be alive without them.”

Team Co-Ordinator is Gemma Vignali, who explains:

“We treat people with a range of different respiratory conditions and try and improve their quality of life.

We help people work towards goals with a person-centred approach, our youngest participant is in their early forties while our oldest is 92.”

pulmonary rehab-1.jpgClasses run in three locations around the Blackburn area and start with light stretching exercises. 71-year-old Susan has been under the PR team for three years, after her lungs were scarred by an autoimmune condition, before she contracted Covid.


Susan said:

“I’ve got breathing problems and I love coming to the exercise sessions, I go on a Monday and I’ve met other ladies and I really enjoy it. It gets me out of the house and moving. “I had a pacemaker fitted a year ago, we do gentle stretches, walking and arm and leg exercises, I feel fitter, I’ve made friends, I go for a coffee and a chat with the other ladies on other days too, it’s great.”

Former smoker Stuart from Blackburn, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was hospitalised twice last year with pneumonia and put on four litres of oxygen.

Stuart said:

“I was really ill and felt depressed, I had an oxygen cylinder on my back when I first started coming and the classes slowly helped me. Now I’ve been off oxygen completely for five months. “I did two sessions a week on the gym equipment and it helped me recover and get back to work as a team leader. I now go swimming three times a week and to the gym, they really helped kickstart my fitness. Now I don’t rely on oxygen or nebulisers and I’m off steroids and a lot of my tablets. It’s great!”

Back at Darwen Leisure Centre, John says:

“Having the support of the team is invaluable it makes you get up, get out and move. It’s building my confidence as I’m getting used to my new lungs. If I can do it before my transplant with scarred lungs anyone can. It’s about quality of life. I didn’t do gyms before but the PR Team have changed my life for the better.”

Find out more about the Pulmonary Rehab team on the LSCft website.