Beat Covid-19 blues with exercise!

Dr Hema Nalini Devi (PT)

BPT; HOD- Inpatient Physiotherapy Department, Apollo Hospitals

7 min read

Covid-19 has upended our lives! With diminished social contact, loss of daily routines and physical inactivity our daily life has been disrupted to say the least. There seems to be an air of melancholy everywhere. We feel blue when something makes us feel sad, low and depressed. But fortunately for us, exercise can combat the Covid-19 blues and the mental health risks associated with social distancing.

Exercise could be UR lifeline! Besides reducing the risk of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension, exercise can help treat depression too. Studies suggest that exercise helps improve post-traumatic stress disorder as well. Mental well-being can be achieved with exercise.

Beat the COVID Blues with Exercise

When one is diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, isolation or quarantine is advised. Just the thought of being locked away in a closed room – away from loved ones and family members tends to make us feel worried and sad. For those who have recovered from Covid-19, the bouts of fatigue and tiredness they experience due to the illness makes them feel low and sapped of energy and enthusiasm. This emotional state is described as COVID blues. Due to fatigue and inactivity during quarantine, you may also experience aches and pains in UR neck and back.

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The answer to deal with all of this is exercise! Exercises can be in any form. You can do it even during your quarantine period if your vitals are good. Start with simple breathing exercises and move on to free exercises for UR hands and legs as these can be done easily. It’s advisable to keep repetitions low so that your oxygen saturation does not drop.

If you are recovering from COVID-19 or have been infected with the virus, checking oxygen saturation levels before an activity and after an activity is recommended. If saturations are dropping, you are not supposed to exercise. Consult a doctor instead. But if UR oxygen saturations are fine and UR heart rate is at a normal level, doing some kind of activity is fine.

Some studies state that when you exercise for 20-40 minutes it elevates UR mood. This is because when you start exercising, blood circulation improves. This is true for any kind of workout. It could be a workout at home, at the gym, weight training, walking, running, swimming and so on. Exercise basically improves blood circulation and oxygen levels. This in turn improves many systems in UR body such as the heart, lungs, abdomen, intestine and many others. Exercise helps in the proper functioning of these systems.

The ‘touch’ of care in physiotherapy can heal U from worst of UR pains.

Beat the COVID Blues with Exercise

As blood circulation in the brain improves with exercise, it helps to stimulate the hormones and chemicals in the brain called endorphins. These are the feel good hormones that make us feel good and happy. Exercise also helps the brain to function normally. There are issues of distraction, brain fog and loss of memory post COVID. Exercise addresses these problems. As blood circulation gets better, hormone levels improve, concentration improves and the way we think improves! The feeling of sadness disappears.

Exercise is an activity that demands concentration. During exercise, you should breathe normally. There is no need to stop breathing. But focus on the simple movement of UR hands, elbows or fingers – concentrate on the moment. This helps drive away the blues by elevating UR mood. At the end of UR exercise, practice good deep breathing and do some cool down exercises. By doing this, oxygenation improves. Your fatigue gets better and UR mood gets better! You will gain confidence and feel at peace.

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It’s never too late to start exercising. The day you start is a good day! It is also always better to do minimal exercise than no exercise at all. Even if you have an active job, you still need to exercise. To make sure UR heart and lungs are functioning well, you need a continuous exercise routine for at least 20-30 minutes a day. If you’re a beginner, start with 15 minutes to 20 minutes and gradually, increase to 30-40 minutes.

Many people complain of neck and back pain and there is often stiffness, stress induced pain in the neck. When you feel stress or anxious, UR shoulders are usually tense. There is tightness in the muscles around the neck and shoulder area. The chin is also often down because we bend a lot while working. These stress-induced pains can be reversed and prevented. Here’s how.

  • UR posture should be right when you are sitting. Make sure you are sitting comfortably. This means UR lower and upper back should be supported. You should move back and sit; move UR chair closer to the table.
  • As UR neck is always bent throughout UR working schedule – place UR hands behind and look up to the ceiling gently. Count 5 and then lower your hands. Repeat 5 times to reverse the forward bending posture. You can do this whenever you feel UR neck is strained.
  • Exercises to relax UR upper back muscles: Place UR hands across UR chest or abdomen. Try to shrug UR shoulders gently up and then lower it. Never do this fast as it’s a jerky movement for UR neck muscles. Remember to be gentle.
Stretch for back muscles
  • Raise both UR hands sideways up
  • Stretch and hold it up
  • Count 5
  • Clasp UR hands; fingers should be clasped and interlocked
  • Pull UR hands up to feel the strength from the lower back to the upper back
  • Count 5 and lower UR hands
  • Do 3-5 repetitions
Isometric exercises and free exercises

Try to make a muscle work without any movement. Start with the following:

  • Placing UR hands on your forehead. Fingers should be interlocked. Just push UR hand with your forehead gently. Count till 5. Change the position of UR hand to behind. Now push UR head gently backward. Change the position of UR hands to the sides. Do it for both sides alternatively.
  • Move your neck to both sides: Keep UR body straight and move UR neck to both sides alternatively.
  • Look up to the ceiling gently and then down again. Ensure you don’t overstretch when you do this. You should not feel dizzy.

There are a few more exercises that can be done as per the requirement of the patient.

Exercises to manage back pain

Our back is supported by our abdominal muscles and back muscles. Both are important and both these muscles need to be strengthened. Here are some exercises that can help.

  • Lie down
  • Bend your legs
  • Keep your feet a little forward
  • Place your hands a little up and a little forward
  • Come forward with UR head up as much as you can

Here’s another simple exercise to strengthen UR upper abdominal muscles:

  • Keep UR legs straight
  • Try to lift one leg up to one foot height
  • Repeat for both the legs
  • Both the above exercises help to maintain abdominal strength.
Exercises to strengthen UR back muscles:
  • Lie on UR stomach and put UR hands beside you
  • Relax your body
  • Lift your head and shoulders as much as you can
  • Be relaxed and don’t over strain UR neck
  • When lifting yourself up, look at the floor or bed to avoid strain
  • This exercise helps both, the lower and upper back.

Here’s another helpful exercise:

  • Lie on UR stomach
  • Lift one leg up without bending UR knee
  • Do this alternately for both UR legs
  • Try and hold the position till the count of 5

If you are not used to any activity, start with slow and short duration workouts. Start with 15 minutes workouts, 5 minutes warm-up, 6-7 minutes workout and 5 minutes of cool down. Do some leg exercises, ankle movements and neck exercises initially and remember to warm up before exercising.

Exercise should be done every day but under proper guidance. If you are exercising in a closed area with many people, don’t forget to wear a mask while doing some simple exercises. But if you are doing rigorous exercises, avoid wearing a mask. This is because while exercising a lot of oxygen is required and a mask hinders breathing.