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Deep Breathing Techniques Lessen the Impact of COVID-19

With another wave of COVID-19 engulfing the world, many are asking themselves, “Is there really nothing else I can do to reduce the impact of Covid on my body?” By now, we’re all very well aware of the hygienic and social-distancing practices that can lessen our risk of getting the dreaded disease, and medical interventions like vaccines and (more recently) an antiviral treatment both play a massive role of their own (You can read an article of ours about that here).

But if you still feel like you’re not doing enough to reduce your risk of COVID-19, we’ve got a list of deep breathing techniques that may further strengthen your respiratory system and improve your outcome before and even during a Covid infection. These breathing exercises can effectively supplement the above-listed primary interventions for COVID-19. Equally important, deep breathing helps you regain more control of your wellbeing and relieve the stress you may be currently experiencing.

How do deep breathing techniques lessen the impact of COVID-19?

In previous articles, we’ve written extensively about the ways deep breathing can help fight stress and anxiety and even aid weight loss, but let’s not forget the primary system involved as you’re performing these healing exercises - the respiratory system.
COVID-19 Breathing Exercises coronavirus

Practicing breathing exercises, especially abdominal breathing, expands your lung capacity, clears the lungs of mucus and fluids, and makes you breathe more efficiently.

As you know, COVID-19 commonly presents itself through inflammation in the airways and lungs, as evident from common symptoms of Covid like difficulty breathing, coughing, or even pneumonia. Since COVID-19 causes mucus to build up in the airways, lungs, or both, it can affect airflow, which, in turn, could end up causing shortness of breath or even more severe issues like asthma attacks or the life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) that occurs when fluids leak inside the lungs. 

Deep breathing can reduce your risk of developing these severe effects, especially if you already suffer from a chronic inflammatory respiratory condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Regular breathing exercises also strengthen the diaphragm - a flat dome-shaped muscle under the lungs that controls their expansion and contraction. Abdominal breathing is also said to improve the flow of lymph in the body, which could potentially improve immune function and lower your risk of respiratory illnesses. Studies confirm that breathing exercises like pursed-lip breathing improve the efficiency of breathing and reduce shortness of breath.

Which breathing techniques are best?

COVID-19 Breathing Exercises

In order to observe results, it’s essential to practice deep breathing regularly. Think of deep breathing as an exercise for your lungs. And just like any exercise, it takes time for you to build the strength you need to feel a difference. You can use the breathing techniques we list below every day, and they should also be helpful for those who currently have COVID-19 (but we highly encourage you to double-check that with your doctor first).

Also keep in mind that any other aerobic activities that make you breathe faster, such as swimming, riding a bike, yoga, or fast walking can also train your breathing and strengthen your respiratory system. So you can switch up dedicated breathing exercises with sports activities to make things more fun.

1. Pursed-lip breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is a simple but effective method that increases the amount of oxygen you get into your lungs and relieves shortness of breath. You can do it anywhere anytime, and it will be helpful for both strengthening the lungs to lower the risk of getting the novel coronavirus and to remedy breathlessness caused by COVID-19.

Here’s how you can do this exercise: 

Step 1. Relax your neck and shoulders. 
Step 2. Counting to 2, slowly and steadily breathe in through your nostrils, mouth closed. 
Step 3. Round your lips, as if you’re about to blow on a dandelion.
Step 4. Counting to 4, slowly breathe out while maintaining the shape of the lips. 

Repeat for at least 10 rounds.

COVID-19 Breathing Exercises woman deep breathing

2. Yawn-to-smile breathing

This (dare we say) fun breathing technique urges the diaphragm to expand fully and also activates the entire upper body by stretching the chest muscles, the arms, and the shoulders. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that this type of breathing exercise is especially helpful for the first stages of Covid recovery, and Healthline also suggests that it’s beneficial for long-haul COVID-19. This is when your symptoms persist for weeks or months after being clear of the coronavirus. One in four patients experience long-haul symptoms that may include any of the following:

  • breathlessness and coughing
  • headaches and brain fog
  • chest pain
  • muscle aches and difficulty exercising.

Here’s how you can do this exercise:

Step 1. Sit on the floor or in a chair with the back straight and hands resting on the thighs.
Step 2. Extend the arms upwards, about shoulder-width apart or wider. You’ll feel a pleasant stretch in the back and shoulder muscles.
Strep 3. Mimicking a yawn, open your mouth as wide as you can.
Step 4. Now turn that yawn into a big smile and count to 3. Finish by bringing the arms back to the initial position.

Repeat this exercise for 1 minute.

COVID-19 Breathing Exercises man belly breathing

3. Belly breathing

As we already mentioned, deep breathing through the belly engages the diaphragm. Learning to breathe while engaging this muscle is known to reduce stress, clear the lungs, improve lung capacity, and deepen your breathing. Learning this technique is rather easy and safe for anyone willing to give it a go. Like any exercise, it takes practice and time, so don’t worry if you don’t see results right away.

If you have active COVID-19, ask for your doctor’s permission to do any breathing exercise, including this one, as some patients may actually feel that strenuous breathing exercises worsen their symptoms.

Here’s how you can do this exercise:

Step 1. Sit in a chair with your knees bent comfortably and the upper body relaxed. 
Step 2. Put one hand on your belly and breathe in through the nose. Pay attention to how the belly is inflating and deflating as you breathe.

Step 3. On an exhale, activate your abdominal muscles and notice how your belly is flatter. Round your lips and breathe out through your mouth.

Tip: You should focus on the exhale more than on the inhale. 

Do this exercise for 5 minutes.

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