A breathing exercise to support Covid recovery

Ever present, our breath and lungs nourish our bodies with oxygen. We often pay little attention to our lungs until we notice difficulties breathing – whether it be through a virus, infection, injury or a long-term condition.

Many breathing exercises have started to flood the internet and social media in relation to Covid-19 and the recovery process, but research is limited on their effectiveness. That being said, while breathing exercises will have varying effects for everyone, learning to breathe efficiently is an excellent way to strengthen and support the health of our lungs in general.

Here, we chat to physiotherapist Elizabeth Cordle, who shares an exercise that she used to aid her recovery for Covid-19.

Breathing exercises for recovery

Elizabeth experienced Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020. Using social media, Elizabeth shared her experience and her methods for recovery online.

“I was speaking to a friend of mine who works as a respiratory consultant,” she says. “He also had Covid-19 and noticed that his blood oxygen saturation levels were running at only 90% [the normal range for healthy individuals is between 95-100%].

“From his perspective, he believes that Covid affects the bottom of the airways, with oxygen being restricted from that area and closing down the bottom of the lungs.”

Inflating the lungs and encouraging oxygen into the depths of the lungs can help to support our the health of our breathing system. It is here that breathing exercises can become crucial for Covid recovery.

“If we can get breathing exercises going, we can help the lungs to inflate and oxygen to reach the base of the lungs,” says Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s breathing exercise for Covid-19 recovery

  1. Sit upright in a chair and take a deep breath in through the nose.
  2. Gently hold the breath for a count of two.
  3. Sniff a little more air in through the nose.
  4. Hold the breath for a further count of two.
  5. Exhale out through the mouth.
  6. Take two natural breaths.
  7. Repeat this sequence a further two times.
  8. After the third repetition, breathe gently and naturally for one minute before repeating the whole cycle once more.

Along with this breathing exercise, Elizabeth also recommends moving regularly throughout the day. This is especially important if you’re bed-bound with Covid.

“When we’re lying in bed, the bottom of our airways close down,” says Elizabeth. “If you get Covid and take yourself to bed and just stay there, you’re not helping the lungs to expand.

“Get out of bed every hour. Make sure you’re walking around your bedroom if you’re isolating in your room, or walk around your house for two to five minutes. It helps to get oxygen to the lungs and it helps the body to keep moving.”

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