Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are one of the commonest causes of emergency hospital admission and are associated with high rates of readmission. Rehabilitation in the peri- and early post-hospitalization setting may counteract the deleterious consequences of an acute hospital admission and target modifiable risk factors for readmission such as physical inactivity, reduced exercise capacity and impaired physical function. Pulmonary rehabilitation in the peri-hospitalization period can improve exercise capacity and health-related quality of life and can also reduce rates of readmission. Consequently, guidelines have recommended the provision of pulmonary rehabilitation in the acute setting. However, recent trials showing less positive results and observational data questioning acceptability may challenge prevailing enthusiasm. This review examines the role of pulmonary rehabilitation in the peri- and early post-hospitalization setting, considering the modifiable risk factors for readmission, the latest evidence regarding rehabilitation in the acute setting, issues around acceptability and uptake, and alternative strategies to help deliver rehabilitation to more patients. The acceptability and effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation offered that post-exacerbation could be improved by overcoming issues around the setting, timing and format of rehabilitation approaches, including their integration with self-management interventions.