Despite the heading, this is not a weather forecast. The meaning will become clear!

Being able to breathe is quite important and it is not something I have enjoyed with ease over recent times. A combination of Asthma, Bronchiectasisis and chest infections almost on a monthly basis has made me quite – well breathless!

Yes, I take medication but am always looking for other ways to improve my breathing.  I have been very fortunate in being accepted on to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Course at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Could I, should I? I realised I should but the ‘could I?’ remained!

I am now on to week two and I am so glad I am doing it. I have been afraid to exercise much if I am honest. Feeling tired and breathless is not a good incentive, but what I am learning is it does not take long to become unfit and loose conditioning in the body. But, it is possible to start building fitness again, despite your/my age!

The course is run by great physiotherapists at the hospital and my fellow course members all have lung conditions and some heart problems too – as do I now! It is good to do something when you know you are not alone in the ‘wondering’ and ‘doing’ when breathless. 

The first day was not an immediate success. I felt faint on the exercise bike and apparently, my blood pressure had dropped quite a bit.  Nothing left to chance and more water, a banana, rest and reassurance and I carried on. Keeping hydrated is essential and I have been very careful on that score since. 

On week two, I am building a programme of conditioning and aerobic exercise and no more fainting! And, I can start to feel the difference. After the ‘exercise bit’, a talk is given on a topic of interest for health and wellbeing. And, this week I discovered how singing can make a real difference too, be part of the exercise routine and be great fun. 

If anyone had told me that I would be singing along to the great old Beatles’ classic, Here Comes the Sun as part of my ‘rehab’, I would have laughed but what a discovery!

We had a taster session of ‘Singing for Breathing’ which is run at the Royal Brompton every week and in other parts of London. The leader, Ed, who I have already nicknamed  ‘our Gareth Malone’, is inspirational. 

The breathing techniques used in singing offer great training for people with breathing difficulties. Starting with exercises, a song learnt phrase by phrase and then the Beatles classic. A lot of people start by saying ‘I can’t sing’, well with Ed you can! It is the most fun I have had in a while and I fully intend to take up the class when my eight weeks of rehab are completed – when, hopefully, I’ll be that much fitter anyway. 

Singing for Breathing is a charitably funded initiative that is growing across the country with a proven success record. There are now over 70 Singing for Lung Health classes nationally and classes can be found on the British Lung Foundation website.

The classes at the Brompton are held every Tuesday from 11.00 to 12.00 in the Victoria Ward Quiet Room, Fulham Road wing of the hospital (which is not so quiet for that hour!!). A donation of £5 is recommended for the session to help cover the costs and the programme is run under the rb&hArts (Royal Brompton and Harefield Foundation Arts) programme, which is designed to improve the wellbeing of patients, visitors, staff and the local community surrounding each hospital.   

Two randomised controlled and qualitative evaluation trials have been conducted. ‘Singing teaching as a therapy for chronic respiratory disease’ and concluded that: ‘singing classes can improve quality of life measures and anxiety and are viewed as a very positive experience by patients with respiratory disease’. 

Commenting on the trial and its success, Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, consultant respiratory physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital and senior lecturer at Imperial College London said:

“We are always looking for ways to improve patient care at the hospital, which is why we started the singing classes for patients with respiratry problems. As well as working on posture, singing is controlling the breathing in a way that is positive.”

I love that expression, ‘you are never too old to learn’! I have started to really believe it.

Here Comes the Sun!