Contracting COVID-19 can take a major toll on your health, both mental and physical. Medical treatment should always be a priority, but there are individual steps you can take to speed up your recovery and keep yourself healthy and fit, even when quarantined. By keeping yourself active and doing some exercises, you can make your journey to recovery easier.
Where do I start?
There are five main exercise areas to consider, which engage different parts of your body and systems to help you regain strength.
The coronavirus is known to affect the lungs and the respiratory system. Your breathing may remain affected even as you recover, being shallow or laborious.
Practice breathing deeply. If you are still confined to bed, lay on your back and breathe in fully through your nose, exhaling through your mouth. Repeat the exercise lying on your stomach. Focus on filling your lungs, and inhaling deeply through your nose. You can also try humming or singing, which – apart from working your lungs – can be a stress reliever. Contracting the virus can cause stress and fear, and this exercise may help you recover from these symptoms as well.
Once you are able to leave your bed, work on sitting and standing breathing exercises. Breathe, filling your lungs and stomach, while sitting upright or cross-legged. When carrying out these exercises, place your hands on your waist or behind your back to open up space in your chest cavity.
Even after you have recovered and are returning to your normal lifestyle, it’s important to follow through with these exercises to bring your body’s immunity and endurance back up to standard. Continue breathing exercises while standing.
2) Work on your vestibular system
Your neurovestibular system is responsible for managing your balance and orientation, including spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. It is affected by the virus, so doing a few exercises regularly can help you regain balance quicker.
One way to coordinate your movements is by shifting your gaze. While sitting still, and not moving your head, shift your eyes from up to down for thirty seconds, and then from left to right for thirty seconds. Another technique is rolling from left to right in bed: shift your sight first, then roll your head, followed by the rest of the body.
After some recovery, attempt sitting exercises, such as nodding your head slowly, or turning your head from left to right. If you are able to stand, you can also rock backwards and forwards in your chair, and then work on rocking to stand up. It’s important to keep the rest of your body coordinated during this by keeping your eyes trained on an unmoving object and your head straight.
You can later rock forwards and backwards on your knees. Again, keep your eyes and head fixed, but lean forwards into your hands, and then back onto your legs. Another exercise is lying flat on your back, pulling your knees up to your chest, and rotating them from left to right and back, touching them to the floor on each side. Doing each exercise for even a minute each daily can help increase your movement and your spatial coordination majorly.
3) Crossbody exercises
These exercises also help increase coordination, working both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They involve moving both sides of your body either in or out of sync, and crossing parts of your body over to the other side through exercises like walking and jogging.
In early stages of recovery, you can lie in bed and touch opposite hands to opposite thighs. Bring your right thigh up by bending your knee to meet your left hand, and do the same for your left thigh and right hand. You can repeat this exercise while sitting once you are able to do so, or even standing if you have recovered well. You can also maintain a hands-and-knees position, and then raise opposite arms and legs in an “airplane,” or “superman” pose. Maintain this for one minute each day to improve your crossbody coordination.
4) Building muscle strength
The virus can lead to aggressive symptoms like weakness and fatigue, which often linger even after recovery. It’s crucial to work on regaining your body and muscle strength, which you can again do through a few regular exercises.
In bed, you can sit upright and keep your arms overhead, stretching them and yawning. Follow the yawn into a smile and hold it, and repeat for one minute. After some recovery, try bicep curls and shoulder presses. For the former, sit with your fists curled and your elbows by your sides in a chair. Without moving your elbows, curl your arms up so your fists meet your shoulders, and then relax them downwards again. For the latter, Extend your arms outwards with your elbows bent, keeping your fists at shoulder level. Stretch your arms upwards and back down again.
Once you have the strength to do so, add small dumbbells (or replacements like bottles or cans) to the bicep and shoulder exercises. You can also try squats, breathing in and out as you move down and up, or push-ups using the wall. Press your hands against a wall and bend your elbows, moving your chest closer to the wall, then relax them. A simpler exercise would be pushing yourself to stand on your toes for one minute at a time.
5) Building stamina
Alongside building strength, you will need to increase your stamina. It’s likely that you find yourself getting tired or short of breath more easily, so make sure you add endurance exercises to your daily routine.
Cardiovascular exercises are the best way to build stamina. Initially, try to walk in place for five minutes without stopping. You may need to take breaks, but as you gain endurance, you will eventually reach your goal. Later on, work on actually walking for 5-10 minutes, multiple times a day. As you recover, increase the time, up to 30 or even 45 minutes if you can. You can also attempt light jogging, or increasing the incline of the surface.
Although exercising is important, your health should always be a priority. If you have any severe symptoms, like a fever, difficulty breathing, pain, or swelling, do not attempt exercise. Monitor your symptoms throughout, and stop immediately if you are in pain, dizzy or lightheaded, excessively tired, or encounter heart problems.
Your journey to recovery can be made easier through a few simple exercises and individual steps. Make sure to keep wearing a mask, self isolating, and getting vaccinated whenever possible.