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British Lung Foundation
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Will FEV1 improve after quitting smoking?

I smoked for 42 years and have been diagnosed with COPD with a FEV1 of 67%. I know COPD does damage that cannot be reversed but reading the affects of quitting smoking improved lung function of up to 30% within 9 months is one of the benefits. While I would not expect to see imnprovements of 30% because of the existing damage but one would think there should be improvement and just wondered if that would be reflected in the FEV1, and what type of improvement is generally expected.

Thank you.

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16 Replies

Hello jackdup, you may as well ask how long is a piece of string! This is because we are all different. My FEV1 did improve (by 8%) after stopping smoking but I personally know others who had a larger improvement and some who had none at all. However, giving up smoking is the most important thing anyone with COPD can do. Even if you don't get an improvement you will slow down the progression - I wish you well. Auntymary xx


I realize everyone is different, and there is not set course, but the main reason I asked was becuase I have read on several websites that your FEV1 is what it is and it will not get better. It will gradually get worse, and if you quit smoking, it will get worse at a much slower pace, but it will never get any better.

I know there is certainly no guarantees but knowing that at least there is the possibliity of getting some better with quitting is always encouraging.

Thank you Auntymary

How long did it take to improve by 8%?

Hi Jackdup. I was diagnosed this year with a FEV1 of 55%. My GP, who is a specialist in COPD, has told me that stopping smoking is the best thing you can do and then to exercise so that the lungs get aerobic work outs. I only developed COPD symptoms after I stopped smoking.

Exercise, he says, may improve readings but it should certainly mean they don't get worse. I have been building up my levels of aerobic exercise to about an hour a day (not all in one go) and my peak flow has ceertainly improved from 140 to 260. I won't know about the FEV1 reading until next spring when I have my annual check up.

I am on Spiriva (which has helped me a lot) and Ventolin for when I need it.


Hi Lynne,this may be a daft question but what sort of exercises do you do.Same as you,developed COPD &Asthma after i stopped smoking,walk the dog(staff)every day but if there is something else i can do to improve my life style i will go for it.I am on exactly the same medication as you too.(U2-excellent band)


Hi Mike. I agree about U2. Also love Dire Straits.

Anyway, I have an allotment so I try to do as much digging as I can as that is quite aerobic, I also walk as briskly as I can so that I get breathless and I have a Wii Fit, so I do their jogging on the spot exercises. It can be a bit boring but I am up to 20 minutes jogging now.

The main thing is to do anything that makes you breathless.

I also do yoga but that is to help my balance, posture and core strength.

I hope that helps. I feel a lot better for the exercise even though some days I really don't fancy it.

Lynne x

Agree 100% on your choice of music,got to admit that "Brothers in arm's "makes me weepy,probably because i was involved in the Falklands campaign and lost some good pals,anyway,thats another story.Thanks for your response,do find when i take the tripehound walkies i tend to try to find hilly area's which does get me out of breath,can't be bad.Take care,Mike.xx

Hi Mike, let me know how you get on and you can always message me (click on the message button at the top of the page to see any) in fact, I will message you now.

Lynne x

Thanks for the replies.

What was your fev1/fvc when you where diagnosed with COPD?

I believe my FEV1 was 67% and my FEV1/FVC was I believe 62%.

Hello jackdup, what was the improvement if any in your fev1 after one year? Im very eager to know because Im newly diagnosed. I want to know what to expect.

Actually I am going for a Pulmonary Function Test on Tuesday so will know better then. I had a spirometry done in July which actually showed a significant reduction in my FEV1 which was very disheartening, especially considering my FEV1 never changed from 2006 to 2012 while I smoked that entire time and now to see the reduction after one year of no smoking is not what I expected.

Wish you good luck for PFT.

Thank you

I had a spirometry in July of this year (2013) which showed a significant reduction in FEV1 from what it was a year ago just before I quit smoking which was very surprising and disheartening. I have a PFT scheduled for this Tuesday so will see what the results of it are.

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