Breathing Exercises for COVID-19 – Apollo Hospitals Blog

Once a person contracts COVID-19, it can affect the lungs and respiratory system, sometimes leading to serious damage. COVID-19 often leads to pneumonia and even acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe lung injury. Recovery of lung function is possible, but may require therapy and regular exercise for months after treatment of the infection.

The first step to recovery is to focus on breathing. Here are a few breathing exercises that are known to help speed recovery for people who have contracted COVID-19.

How can breathing exercises help people with COVID-19?

Covid-19 affects different people in different ways. The most common symptoms that make breathing difficult are inflammation in the lungs and airways.

People who are very ill from this virus infection can get pneumonia as a result. This causes the lungs to fill with fluid and mucus, making it difficult to breathe and get the necessary oxygen the body needs to function properly.

If the person has a condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or moderate to severe asthma, they may already have reduced lung capacity and breathing difficulties, and COVID-19 can seriously exacerbate this.

These conditions lead to chronic inflammation of the lungs, which can worsen significantly in people who develop COVID-19 after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The entire airways are affected by COVID-19, further blocking airflow. Asthma attacks can be triggered by it and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). People with these conditions can benefit greatly from deep breathing exercises that clear the lungs and strengthen lung function.

Deep breathing can also help in other ways, including:

  • Getting oxygen deep into the lungs, which helps the person clear mucus and other fluids
  • Strengthening the diaphragm, an important breathing muscle located below the lungs
  • Expanding lung capacity by delivering much needed oxygen to the bloodstream
  • Helping the person feel calmer, which can be beneficial in coping with chronic illness and recovery

Can SARS-CoV2 infection be prevented by breathing techniques?

COVID-19 cannot be prevented by breathing techniques and should not be used as a preventative measure in place of proven methods such as mask wearing, social distancing or vaccination.

However, breathing exercises can help strengthen the lungs, which can reduce the effect of COVID-19 on the respiratory system.

The following techniques reduce shortness of breath and improve lung ventilation.

pursed lip breathing

Breathing with pursed lips brings more oxygen into the lungs than normal breathing. It also keeps the airways open for a long time by reducing the number of breaths the person takes per minute.

The steps below should be followed to breathe with pursed lips:

  • The person should relax in a sitting position with the neck and shoulder muscles relaxed.
  • The person should then take a few slow breaths through the nose with the mouth closed (the nose warms and moistens the air before it reaches the lungs, while inhalation through the mouth does not)
  • Before exhaling, the person should purse their lips as if about to blow out a candle
  • With pursed lips, they should slowly exhale all the air in their lungs
  • The person should try to exhale longer than they inhaled and repeat this several times

Aerobic exercise

Any form of exercise that has the potential to make a person breathe faster compared to not exercising is considered a breathing exercise.

Among which:

  • Walk briskly
  • swimming
  • Run
  • Any activity that increases heart rate and respiration

Regular exercise supports lung health. Healthy lungs can be the best defense against COVID-19 if the person contracts the coronavirus that causes a symptomatic viral infection.

What are the best breathing exercises for an acute case of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

Or the person may have any of the following symptoms or conditions:

  • Severe respiratory disease with pneumonia or ARDS
  • Cough
  • shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of ability to taste or smell

In people with severe COVID, symptoms usually begin between two and 14 days after exposure and resolve within two weeks. Some people have chronic complaints for a long time after recovery from COVID-19, such as shortness of breath and fatigue.

If the person has COVID-19, they should talk to a doctor before starting any breathing exercises. If they are short of breath when they rest, have an irregular heartbeat, or chest pain, exercise may make their symptoms worse.

In addition to pursed lip breathing, some other breathing exercises may be helpful during recovery from COVID-19. They are:


For example, moderate or mild COVID cases can be managed well by applying the proning technique and using machines such as oxygen cylinders or concentrators, especially at a time when it is quite difficult to secure access to the hospital.

Lying face down and breathing is called proning. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, the prone position is a medically accepted position to improve oxygenation and comfort. If the normal oxygen level in the human body drops below 94, an infected person can lie on their stomach in isolation at home, as the position improves ventilation and keeps the alveolar units open.

diaphragmatic breathing

  • This exercise can be performed sitting or lying down
  • The person must first relax their face, neck, jaw and shoulder muscles
  • Then they should rest the tip of their tongue behind their top front teeth
  • The back should be straight and the eyes closed
  • The person should breathe normally for a few minutes
  • Then they should place one hand on their chest and the other on their abdomen and breathe deeply through their nose, feeling their chest and ribs expand as they inhale. The stomach should extend outward against the hand
  • The person should exhale while slightly pulling their abdomen in
  • This form of slow, deep breathing should be repeated nine to ten times.

What are the best breathing exercises if the person has long-term COVID?

If the person is living with COVID-19 long-term, they may continue to experience symptoms for weeks or months after the viral infection. The symptoms vary, but can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of ability to exercise
  • brain fog
  • Cough
  • Decreased or no sense of taste or smell
  • Muscles or joint aches and pains
  • chestpain
  • headache
  • periodic fever

Breathing exercises can help improve long-term COVID symptoms. They can also help reduce the ongoing stress and anxiety caused by the symptoms of COVID-19.

The techniques for people with long-distance COVID are as follows:

Yawn for a smile

Performing this breathing exercise opens the muscles in the chest, allowing the diaphragm to fully expand. It also strengthens the arms and the muscles of the shoulder.

It should be done in the following way:

  • The person should sit upright with a straight back
  • Then they should stretch their arms to shoulder height. They should feel the muscles in their back stretch
  • While their arms are at shoulder height, the person should open their mouth wide, as if yawning.
  • Then they should rest their arms on their thighs again while turning their yawn into a smile.

Buzzing on exhalation

Humming, similar to the chant “om” in yoga, can help draw oxygen to the lungs with each breath. Many people also find that it can also be very soothing.

The following steps must be followed to perform this exercise:

  • They should first sit upright with a straight back
  • Then they should place each hand on the sides of their abdomen
  • The person should keep their lips closed and rest their tongue gently on the palate
  • After this, they should breathe deeply and slowly through the nose, keeping their lips closed and their tongue in position.
  • The person should have their fingers spread wide on their stomach as it stretches
  • The person should keep their shoulders relaxed and not allow them to rise
  • After the lungs feel full, the person should exhale while humming. The person should be sure to keep their lips closed.
  • This should be repeated for many breaths


Most people who have contracted and developed COVID-19 usually recover within a few weeks. Severe cases of infection may take a month or more to resolve completely.

Rebuilding lung capacity can help the person recover regardless of complications such as pneumonia or on a ventilator.

Each breath is deepened by deep breathing, improving the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. The efficiency of the lungs can be improved as a result.

The person may feel a sense of calmness from taking a deep breath. This can help with a faster and more holistic recovery. If the person is using breathing exercises to strengthen their recovery process, they should not rush things and should start slowly and build up to multiple repetitions and longer duration of the workout.

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