Shortness of breath & Exercise Tolerance

 Most people will feel short of breath at some point during their lives, most commonly when participating in sport or exercise.


Some people however, such as those with respiratory, cardiac and many other medical causes of shortness of breath will regularly feel short of breath, both during exercise but also during normal activities such as walking, dressing and doing housework.


Being breathless and feeling unable to breathe easily or catch your breath (dyspnoea), can be distressing and sometimes makes matters worse with a cycle of breathlessness, causing panic or anxiety, which further increases the breathlessness. This can lead to an overwhelming sense of losing control which is often very frightening.


Common causes of shortness of breath:

  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Viral infection such as COVID-19
  • Following periods of immobility or hospitalisation
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Obesity


The great news is that physiotherapy can help you to manage shortness of breath and the panic or anxiety that it may cause and our specialist respiratory physiotherapists have both the assessment and treatment skills and the experience necessary to help you!


Whilst its often not possible to fully resolve the causes and symptoms of breathlessness, when you are able to learn how to manage your shortness of breath, you’ll feel less anxious and more in control. Consequently it is often possible to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life, full of the activities and exercise you may have previously felt impossible.


Our physiotherapists are able to help you in several ways:

  • Lifestyle advice.
  • Self-management techniques such as positioning to make breathing easier.
  • Relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and panic.
  • Breathing techniques – such as pursed lip breathing, blow-as-you-go, diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Inspiratory muscle training.
  • Breathing pattern retraining.
  • Manual treatments.
  • Exercise prescription and progression.
  • Exercise pacing and progression of exercise endurance / tolerance.
  • Secretion management and airway clearance.
  • Postural drainage, gravity assisted techniques.


If you would like our help with managing your shortness of breath or exercise tolerance then please contact us today in confidence.