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Healing Power of Exercise

Swathi K

Pilates Instructor, Apollo Life Studio, Hyderabad

9 min read


Going back to UR normal life after COVID-19 infection will be a gradual process. Even though you may have recovered, you may still experience some of the symptoms like weakness, body pains and breathlessness. Exercising can help you get back to UR normal life. Ensure you get URself assessed before beginning any physical exercise and take all precautions before you begin any kind of workout. Depending on UR symptoms, you can start off with some low-intensity exercises.

Pilates is a form of exercise that helps to coordinate the mind and body. It also helps to improve UR flexibility, balance, strength, core and posture. Let’s try to understand which particular movements you should do and the kind of breathing involved during exercise. Some exercises are suitable for everyone – even if they are on the road to recovery after the COVID-19 infection. These exercises help to improve UR breathing and posture. A maximum of 10 reps can be done – either lying down, sitting or standing. It would be great if you can try to exhale double of what you inhale while doing these exercises.

As post Covid-19 patients experience a lot of weakness, lying down and exercising seems to be the best alternative. For all of the exercises mentioned below, a neutral posture while exercising is recommended – UR shoulders should be right down and flat on the surface. Also, UR chin should be in line with UR spine.

Ensure you don’t leave more than a finger’s space between UR lower back and the floor. Meaning, it should be flat without an arch. Maintain a neutral position for UR spine. Raise UR knees and maintain a small gap between UR feet. Let’s start with breathing exercises. We will focus on the diaphragm as it’s the main muscle responsible for breathing.

1. Diaphragmatic exercises

These exercises engage the core and activate it along with the breathing. When you inhale, U need to do it from inside UR pelvis and hips for UR diaphragm. In this way you are aerating all UR four sides – forward, back and UR sides. To practice this exercise:

  • Lie down flat on a mat
  • Inhale with UR nose
  • Place UR hands on UR stomach below UR chest to feel the air when you inhale
  • Exhale with UR mouth while pulling UR stomach inwards and squeezing UR glutes

Initially, this exercise can be done in a lying down position and later you can progress to sitting while doing this exercise. To practice this exercise while sitting:

  • Sit on a mat crossed-legged
  • Place UR hands on UR stomach
  • Ensure UR shoulders are relaxed
  • Inhale from inside using UR nose and exhale through UR mouth
  • While exhaling pull UR stomach inwards and engage UR core tightly to facilitate UR ab muscles

If U don’t have the energy to engage UR core, initially, try doing it 2-3 days after beginning UR normal exercise. You can breathe normally too (but not deeply) and exhale normally if you feel you are low on energy.

U can even do this exercise with UR legs folded. Keep UR knees together and ensure UR glutes are resting on UR heels. Inhale and exhale in the same way. Yet another progression of this exercise can be performed by kneeling down and breathing (inhaling with UR nose and exhaling through UR mouth) in the same way mentioned.

The important thing to remember while doing this exercise is to encourage coordination between UR mind and body. Allow UR mind to focus on UR inhalations and exhalations. Give it UR full concentration to get the maximum benefits.

2. Lateral breathing (chest exercise)
  • Place UR hands along UR chest and keep UR shoulders down
  • Inhale directly into UR chest and into UR lungs
  • Inhale and expand UR lungs
  • Exhale with UR mouth – engage UR core and pull UR stomach inwards

You can start this exercise lying down and then move on to the same progressions practiced for the diaphragmatic exercises. These exercises can also be done while standing. But it’s important to maintain UR form while standing. Keep UR feet slightly apart with UR heels in line with UR toes. This exercise helps to loosen UR ribs and mid-back position with more scope of opening UR lungs.

3. One lung breathing

Whether it’s COVID-19 or any other disease – one side of the lung gets infected (either more towards the right or more towards the left). To do this exercise:

  • Get into a sitting position (glutes resting on UR heels)
  • Place one hand on the right side of UR chest
  • Place the other hand on the floor
  • Keep UR shoulder down and relaxed
  • Maintain a neutral position for UR neck
  • Bend slightly towards UR left side – inhale and exhale
  • Come back to UR center position
  • Switch sides and repeat the exercise

Progressions of this exercise include increasing the lateral action and surface area of the lung – this involves bringing UR forearm lower down (for a deeper bend)and more opening of UR lung. With time, UR flexibility will increase to help you do the progressions better.

Don’t avoid any movement and ensure you are constantly improving UR fitness level. For instance, if you’ve been practicing these exercises sitting on a chair,try sitting on the floor next and so on. At the same time, don’t ignore pain and avoid certain positions if you are finding it painful.


A healthy mind stays in a healthy body. Embrace the true spirit of this quote for UR post COVID recovery.


4. Sniffing Breathing

To do this exercise you need to take short inhalations which are divided into two. Inhale twice and exhale completely to increase UR lung capacity.

  • Sit in a cross-legged position and inhale (twice)
  • Place both UR hands at the sides of UR chest
  • Inhale directly into UR chest
  • Exhale completely

As a progression of this exercise, you can inhale twice and exhale twice. Try this probably after a week’s time of beginning this exercise. For the next progression inhale thrice and exhale thrice. This can be progressed to five inhalations and five exhalations.

Pull UR stomach inwards while exhaling (engage UR core). You can also try another progression of this exercise by extending both UR hands outwards while inhaling and exhaling (thrice or five times).

Here’s another progression of this same exercise:

  • Sit in a cross-legged position
  • Extend both UR hands at the sides of UR chest (in line with UR shoulders)
  • Slowly rotate UR body while inhaling (five times)
  • Bring it back to center position while exhaling (five times)
  • Ensure you maintain UR posture by keeping UR shoulders down and neck in neutral position
5. Arm Exercises

These exercises are required to open up UR lungs and improve their capacity. Cardiac capacity is also increased with arm exercises. While doing these exercises, remember to always inhale with UR nose, breathe out with UR mouth and involve UR core. You will be inhaling into UR chest and into UR shoulders – UR focus will be on these areas to open them up. Don’t forget to relax UR body. Relaxation of the body plays a key role in healing.

    To practice these arm exercises:

  • Lie down flat on a mat
  • Keep UR shoulder blades flat on the floor
  • Extend UR hands upwards
  • Lift UR knees and keep UR feet slightly apart
  • Bring UR hands down while exhaling (pulling UR stomach inwards)
  • Lift UR hands up while inhaling (with UR chest) to feel that lateral expansion in UR lungs
    For the next arm exercise:

  • Lie down flat on a mat
  • Keep UR shoulder blades flat on the floor
  • Lift UR knees and keep UR feet slightly apart
  • Extend both UR hands outwards
  • Exhale and bring them both slowly together towards UR hips involving UR core
  • Inhale (into UR chest) back to the starting position
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    Shoulder Circles

  • Lie down flat on a mat
  • Lift UR knees and keep UR feet slightly apart
  • Keep UR shoulder blades flat on the floor (relaxed)
  • Extend both UR hands upwards above UR shoulders
  • Bring UR hands towards UR side
  • Exhale and bring UR hands towards UR hips
  • Inhale and lift UR hands up and bring them to UR sides
  • Ensure UR spine is completely relaxed and UR back is not arched
  • You can also try reverse shoulder circles – exhale and bring UR hands down
  • Inhale and bring UR hands to the side and then up towards the ceiling
    For an elbow bend exercise

  • Exhale and bring UR hands down.
  • Inhale and bend UR hand at the elbow

Exercises to strengthen UR back:

    Pelvic exercises:

  • Lie down flat on a mat
  • Lift UR knees and keep UR feet slightly apart
  • Keep UR shoulder blades flat on the floor (relaxed)
  • Slide (curl) UR pelvis inwards (inhaling) towards UR nose and outwards while exhaling – this exercise helps to release the tightness in the pelvic joint.
  • Move UR pelvis sideways – inhale to UR left and exhale to UR right
    Spinal exercises

  • Lie down flat on a mat
  • Lift UR knees and keep UR feet slightly apart
  • Keep UR shoulder blades flat on the floor (relaxed)
  • Keep UR hands at UR sides
  • Exhale and lift UR hips up off the floor
  • Inhale and bring UR hips down. This exercise is called flat back bridging

For the next bridging exercise (progression):

  • Slide (curl) UR pelvis inwards (inhaling) towards UR nose and outwards while exhaling
  • Lift up UR spine and involve UR core while lifting UR hips; squeeze UR glutes together
  • Inhale at the end through UR chest
  • Exhale while lowering URself down; feel UR vertebrae involved in this exercise

For all of these exercises, you can start with 3 reps if you are very weak, progress to 5 reps, and go up to 10 reps. U can go up to 30 reps for the arm exercises.

Once you finish exercising don’t forget to stretch. No exercise is complete without stretching. When you stretch you help to loosen UR muscles and reduce the pain you experience. U will also be preparing URself for the exercise you need to do for the next day. After doing all of the exercises above it’s important for you to stretch the following:

  • Inner thighs
  • Outer thighs
  • Shoulders
  • Quadriceps
  • Spine