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Dyspnea Scale and Exercise

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a dyspnea scale?

Dyspnea is shortness of breath. 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.

What do I need to know about exercise and lung disease?

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.

What do I need to know about dyspnea scales?

  • There are several different dyspnea scales that your healthcare providers may use. Your healthcare providers will teach you to use the Rating of Perceived Dyspnea (RPD) scale during exercise or tasks. This scale allows you to rate the amount of shortness of breath you feel. The RPD scale goes from 0 to 10. A score of 0 means 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 scale can help you realize how short of breath you are with specific activities. Your ratings on the scale can help you pace your activity.
  • At first, your shortness of breath may be severe. As you continue your exercise plan, you should notice improvement. The goal is to keep your rating between 3 and 4 on the RPD scale.

What does the RPDP scale look like?

  • 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 the exercise or activity

When should I or someone close to me call 911?

  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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