COVID-19 symptoms can linger for weeks or even months after the initial infection. This phenomenon has been dubbed “long covid” by some. Because the coronavirus primarily affects the lungs, one of the long COVID-19 breathing symptoms after initial recovery can be ongoing breathlessness. COVID-19 may damage lung tissue in a way that’s similar to COPD, which means COPD breathing exercises for COVID-19 might be helpful in minimizing ongoing breathlessness. Try these exercises as a type of COVID-19 breathing treatment if your healthcare provider gives you the green light to do so.
“Diaphragmatic breathing” refers to taking deep belly breaths that cause your diaphragm to expand as much as possible. Diaphragmatic breathing can inflate the tiny air sacs at the bottom of your lungs and enable them to expel any mucus lodged there. To perform this COVID-19 breathing exercise, lie flat on your back on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hand over your navel (belly button) and focus on pushing your hand up with each breath. Repeat 8 to 10 times or for one minute.
Performing diaphragmatic breathing while lying on your stomach helps open up different air sacs in your lungs. Do not perform this maneuver if it causes increased breathlessness. Lie on your stomach on your bed or a sofa, resting your forehead on your hands. Keep your mouth closed and touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue. As you slowly breathe in through your nose, focus on pushing your belly button into the mattress or sofa. Exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
This type of breathing holds air inside your lungs for a longer period of time than a standard breath, which enables your blood to take up more oxygen. To perform a pursed lip breathing exercise, sit upright on a chair. Breathe in through your nose while counting rhythmically, then purse your lips like you plan to kiss someone and breathe out through your mouth for twice as many beats as you inhaled. For example, if you counted to “four” while inhaling, exhale over a count of “eight.”
Humming while exhaling may hold air in your lungs longer than simply exhaling through your nose or mouth. To perform deep breathing with humming, start by sitting or standing as upright as possible. Place one hand on your sternum (breastbone) and the other hand on your belly. Close your lips and touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue. As you slowly inhale through your nose, focus on pushing your lower hand away from your body before your upper hand rises with your chest. Exhale through your nose while humming. Perform 8 to 10 times.
Coughing clears secretions from your lungs, so you can breathe easier. But it’s important to use a good coughing technique. To do this, perform a sequence of diaphragmatic breathing exercises as previously described. Then, while sitting or standing, hold your mouth open and cough, catching any secretions in a tissue. Never cough or clear your throat with your mouth closed, as this can put excessive pressure on your eardrums. Try to cough from deep in your lungs to expel mucus.
(Before performing any activity that might make you cough, be sure to put on a face mask if other people will be nearby.)
Depending on how severe your long COVID-19 breathlessness feels, you may get relief from engaging in aerobic activity. Do not exercise so intensively that your breathlessness gets worse; only ramp up the intensity of your aerobic activities as your breathlessness decreases. Aerobic activity also can relieve chest pain and fatigue associated with long COVID by pushing secretions out of your lungs and improving your oxygenation. Try brisk walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, or any activity that gets your blood pumping.