Simple Rehabilitation Advice for People Recovering from COVID-19


Caution: Before you begin, you may want to seek your healthcare professional’s opinion whether you are suitable to start your self-rehabilitation. 

Extracted from: “Recovering from COVID-19: A Patient Guide” by New York Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Mental Health Advice

  1. Try to eat well and sleep well, aim for 7 hours of sleep at least in the night at one go. 
  2. Keep in contact with family and friends frequently through phone and video calls, keep  yourself entertained through different forms of media that you can get your hands on. 
  3. If feeling negative emotionally, remind yourself that you are not to blame. If unable to cope independently can consider calling National Care Hotline 6202-6868 (Singapore).
  4. Try to do exercises as regularly as you are able to even if it is for a short period. Exercise helps to increase endorphins which helps to improve one’s mood.

Exercises you can do

  1. Aerobic (Walking) Consider week 1 as from the day you start.
    • Week 1: 5 minutes, 5 times a day 
    • Week 2: 10 minutes, 3 times a day
    • Week 3: 15 minutes, 2 times a day 
  1. Change positions regularly

As you have been in bed for a long period when you are sick, your muscles are deconditioned. It is preferable that you stay upright more often than you lie down. Other than that, it is best if you could change your position every 30 minutes. 

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing 

You may lie on your back with your knees bent or sit upright. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in deeply with your nose and mouth, ensure that you do feel your belly expanding. Subsequently exhale out through your mouth slowly as if blowing a candle. Keep repeating for 1 minute.

  1. Balance and Strengthening Exercises
  • Ankle pumps with seated knee extension

Make sure you are seated all the way into the chair. In a seated position, bring your lower leg up to a point where your knee is straightened. Keep it at that position, move your foot and toes up and down for 3 times before bringing your lower leg back down to the ground. Keep repeating for 30 seconds each leg. Perform this exercise one leg at a time. 

  • Sit to stand squats

Scoot to the front of the chair. You may choose to either have arms reached out to the front or crossed across your chest. Lean forwards and lift yourself off the seat and stand upright. For those who find it difficult to stand up or balance self without arm support may use a table or any other firm objects as a  form of support. Do this for 30 seconds.

  • Standing march

In a standing position and holding onto something firm, bring one leg up with knee bent to hip height and hold it there for 2 seconds before setting it back down. Try to do it for alternating legs each time. Keep going for 30 seconds. If unable to, repeat for 10 times per leg and another 10 times for the other.

  • Arm reaches

You may choose to do this in sitting or standing. Start off with your arms down crossed to the opposite hips. Open up and bring your arm across in front of your body and swing it outwards. End the position with a little arch of the back and stretching feel. Repeat for 30 seconds.

  • Standing heel raises 

You may choose to do this exercise with or without support. In standing, lift your heels off the ground as high as you can go. At the highest position, pause for 2 seconds then slowly lower yourself down. Repeat for 30 seconds.

  • Side stepping 

Standing with your back against the long side of your bed. Start at either end, take half a step out to the front. Take a step to the side with one leg followed by the other leg. Keep taking steps till at end of bed then move back in the opposite direction. Keep going for 30 seconds.

  • Wall Pushups

Start with your hands flat on the wall. Keep elbows and trunk straight first. Then bend your elbows to lower yourself slowly towards the wall, then push yourself upright again away from the wall, you need to keep your whole body straight rather than bending only a part of your body. Always make sure that your hands’ position on the wall is not higher than your shoulders’. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Some Precautions to note

  1. Make sure you give yourself a 30-second break after every exercise before starting the next. 
  2. When you feel generally unwell, chest pain, palpitations, severe breathlessness or giddiness, do not commence or continue with the exercises. Seek medical attention if necessary.
  3. Do drink enough water before, during and after exercise.
  4. It would be ideal that you monitor your oxygen level and heart rate while performing all these exercises with a pulse oximeter.
  5. For oxygen level, do stop and rest from the exercises if it goes below 90% for those who do not have any background of lung conditions on top of being a COVID survivor. It would be 88% for those who have a background of other lung conditions on top of being a COVID survivor.
  6. As for heart rate, make sure to rest or slow down when it has increased to 30 beats from your resting heart rate.
  7. For those who do not have the pulse oximeter, you may use the talk test as a method to track how your body is tolerating the exercises. If you are still able to complete a sentence or count up to 7 in one breath comfortably, you are doing well.