The aim of this study was to examine the effect of non-pharmacological staged interventions on fatigue and dyspnoea in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 64 patients in a tertiary hospital in China from 2010 to 2011. Patients were randomly assigned to the control group (n = 32), who received routine care, and the intervention group (n = 32), who received additional non-pharmacological staged interventions. The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory and the five-grade Medical Research Council dyspnoea scale were used to collect data at baseline and after 6 weeks. Compared with the control group, patients in the intervention group had significantly lower scores on general fatigue (P < 0.001), physical fatigue (P < 0.001), reduced activity (P < 0.001) and reduced motivation (P = 0.03) and had better relief of dyspnoea (P = 0.02). Our study showed that non-pharmacological staged interventions were effective in relieving fatigue and dyspnoea in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.