Bronchiectasis – What is it and Can Exercise Help?

Bronchiectasis is a lung disease that involves the inflammation and enlargement of certain bronchi in the lungs, leading to increased chance of infection and tissue damage. Bronchiectasis can be classified as Cystic Fibrosis, an autosomal recessive disease, or caused by a range of other conditions including HIV, inflammatory bowel syndrome and lung infections such as Pertussis and Tuberculosis.

Over time, repeated infections lead to loss of lung function and damaged airways, which in turn increases the chance of the individual developing chronic co-morbidities and potential early mortality. Of the 103 participants living with bronchiectasis in a study conducted by Liaw and colleagues (2011), 98% had a chronic cough due to increased mucous, as well as 74% finding they are fatigued throughout the day. Furthermore, 62% reported dyspnoea while completing activities of daily living, leading to a noticeable decrease in quality of life. Peripheral muscle weakness is also prevalent in those living with bronchiectasis, with mean quadriceps strength 25-35% weaker in comparison with the general population of the same age.

How can we combat the decrease in lung function and peripheral muscle strength that can have such a drastic effect on our day to day lives? Through exercise! Increasing the respiratory muscle strength through moderate to high intensity aerobic training (50-80% peak aerobic capacity) just three times per week has been proven to increase forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume (FEV1) measurements, therefore improving overall pulmonary function and strength. Including a supervised resistance-based exercise session each week targeting peripheral muscle strength, in conjunction with the aerobic portion of the program, has been proven to optimise quality of life outcomes in individuals living with bronchiectasis.

Naturally, everyone is different, and many will require a specific program that is tailored to each individual’s precise requirements. At Absolute Balance, our team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists excel in developing personalised exercise programs that produce the greatest benefits for our clients. If you would like to know more, please email and one of our friendly staff will contact you as soon as possible.

Callan Smith (B.Sc. Exercise and Sports Science, B.Sc. Exercise Science and Rehabilitation)

Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)



Burtin, C., & Hebestreit, H. (2015). Rehabilitation in Patients with Chronic Respiratory Disease Other than Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Exercise and Physical Activity Interventions in Cystic Fibrosis and Non-Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis. Respiration; International Review Of Thoracic Diseases, 89(3), 181-189.


Lee, A. L., Hill, C. J., Cecins, N., Jenkins, S., McDonald, C. F., Burge, A. T. (2014). The Short and Long Term Effects of Exercise Training in Non-Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Respiratory Research, 15, 44-44.


Lee, A. L., Hill, C. J., McDonald, C. F., & Holland, A. E. (2017). Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Individuals With Non–Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis: A Systematic Review. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 98(4), 774-782.e771.


Liaw, M. Y., Wang, Y. H., Tsai, Y. C., Huang, K. T., Chang, P. W., Chen, Y. C., & Lin, M. C. (2011). Inspiratory Muscle Training in Bronchiectasis Patients: A Prospective Randomized Controlled Study. Clinical Rehabilitation, 25(6), 524-536.