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Dyspnea Scale and Exercise


A dyspnea scale is a way to describe shortness of breath you feel during exercise. The scale may be used during exercise at pulmonary rehabilitation or at home. Pulmonary rehabilitation uses exercise to reduce dyspnea. It also improves your strength and endurance. Improvement means that you will be able to perform all activities by using less energy. Your activities will not be limited because you have dyspnea.


Call 911 or have someone close to you call 911 if:

  • You have increasing shortness of breath.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have burning, tightness, heaviness, or pressure in your chest.
  • You have pain in your shoulders, arm, neck, jaw, or back that is not usual.
  • Your heartbeat is racing or it skips a beat.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are lightheaded, dizzy, or have nausea.
  • You feel much more tired than usual.
  • You have new or different joint pain.

Dyspnea scales:

  • There are several different dyspnea scales that your healthcare providers may use. During exercise or tasks your healthcare providers will teach to use the Rating of Perceived Dyspnea (RPD) scale. This scale allows you to rate the amount of shortness of breath you feel. It can help you realize how short of breath you are with specific activities. Your ratings on the scale can help you pace your activity. You can use this scale while doing activities or exercises at home or during pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • At first, your shortness of breath may be severe. As you continue your exercise plan, you should notice improvement. The RPD scale uses a scale from 0 to 10. 0 is when you have no shortness of breath at all. At 10, you are so short of breath that you need to stop the exercise or activity. The goal is to keep your rating between 3 and 4.
    • 0 = no shortness of breath at all
    • 0.5 = very, very slight shortness of breath
    • 1 = very mild shortness of breath
    • 2 = mild shortness of breath
    • 3 = moderate shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
    • 4 = somewhat severe shortness of breath
    • 5 = strong or hard breathing
    • 6
    • 7 = severe shortness of breath or very hard breathing
    • 8
    • 9 = extremely severe shortness of breath
    • 10 = shortness of breath so severe you need to stop exercise or activity

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.