We at Circee Health help prevent and reverse chronic diseases. With the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the country in its second wave, this prevention aspect has taken a new, more urgent meaning.
Most of the advice we see being given revolve around supplements and vitamins, but there is another aspect that most tend to overlook– that of keeping our body and mind healthy through simple exercises.
Our bodies were made to stay healthy through movement. We digest nutrients better when we walk, we breathe better when we do pranayam, we think clearer when we meditate. Multiple studies have shown that by committing to a mere 20 minutes of simple workout a day, you can boost your immune system’s protective power by up to 20%.
Obviously, doing some aerobic workout helps to strengthen your lungs, but did you know that taking in a surplus of air literally helps burn fat and engages your circulatory system? Your veins, your arteries, your lymphatic system all get a workout! The one part that many do not know is that this helps us improve our immune system as well.
Before you start doing the exercises listed below, please make sure you have consulted your doctor. For example, those with pacemakers or valves should not do Kapalbhati breathing exercises. So, please check in with your family physician!
Okay, you’ve been given the green-light to start, so what to do? First, is to go slow, but steadily add new exercises. You can also vary your practise so that one day you do only 20 minutes, and another day, 40 minutes, etc.
Keep adding one exercise at a time to your regimen, till you get to that ideal 40 minute/day mark. Once you reach that, start increasing the intensity and repetitions of each exercise.
Without further adieu, here are our top seven exercises to help stave off COVID-19:
#7. Chair Squats
By doing this, we are hitting the largest set of muscles to increase your energy-burning power. You must be wondering why we are focusing on leg exercises. In fact, it is to target the largest muscles in our body [the quadriceps] so that our body’s basal metabolic rate goes up. We are essentially tricking your body into increasing production of all kinds of “good” hormones.
Start in a seated position at the edge of a chair. Step both your feet forward about 8 inches. Now stand up and sit back down at the edge of the chair- ideally, without using your arms to help. Do this 10 times to complete one set. Do 3 such sets. If you find this too easy, try not to fully sit, but just lightly touch the chair with your glutes (buttocks) and get back up.
#6. Slow Jacks
We’ve all seen, and perhaps done, jumping jacks when we were young. Did you know that there is a slower form of these jacks that is almost as effective? Of course, if you are able to do regular jumping jacks, please do so by all means, but if you cannot perform about 30 of them in one go, try doing this simpler version. Stand with your feet together and arms by your side. Step your right leg to one side and lift your arms either to your side (as shown) or all the way up above your head. Step your feet back together. Next, step your left leg to the other side and repeat. Step back. This is one repetition. Do this 20 times on each side. Repeat this for 3 such sets.
#5. Arm swings
One of the simplest ways to open up all areas of the lungs, is to do arm swings. Start by standing with your legs slightly apart with one arm on the waist and the other off to one side. Now swing and twist to the raised arm side, like a sideways pendulum, till you are able to look behind; then swing back in the same momentum. After about 10 swings, repeat on the other side. That is one repetition. Do 3 sets on each side.
#4. Slow March-in-place
It is a simple exercise. No need to explain it in great detail, but this starts to engage the largest muscles in your body – in your legs. Think of them as engines that will help burn energy. It is not as important to do it fast as it is to swing your arms back and bring your knees up to waist level, as if you are about to jog. In this exercise, swinging your arms back and as high as possible will engage the top part of your lungs that often get neglected.
#3. Slow Knee-ups
This will increase the intensity a little more than slow marching. The benefit is that when you bring your knees up high, you engage your diaphragm muscles that help you breathe. When doing this exercise, keep your hands with palms facing down with elbow at right-angles so that when you bring your knees up, touch the palms of your hands with the top of the knee. Make sure you bring the knees to the palms of your hands, and not the other way around! If you can, try and open the knees to the sides too.
#2. Kapalbhati breathing
Multiple studies have shown kapalbhati, in conjunction with lifestyle changes, helps reduce abdominal obesity. In addition, other studies have shown that practising this type of breathing can have a positive impact on the pelvic muscles of menopausal women. In this practise, we are again engaging one of the largest muscle groups in the body- the rectus abdominis.
To do this, sit cross-legged or on a chair, with your back straight. Initially, place one hand on your stomach and the other, palm open to the sky on your knee. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, pull your stomach in. The best way to describe this is to imagine you are throwing your breath out of your body. The palm on your stomach should feel the stomach rapidly go in. At once, relax and let the breath fill back in. Do 20 repetitions of breaths to complete one set. After each set, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body. Give yourself three slow breaths between each set.
…and the number one exercise during covid times is the most effective one. Drum roll please!
#1. Ujjayi breathing
In a recent 2021 scientific paper, researchers reported significant mental clarity, decrease in depressive episodes and decrease in perceived stress- all credited to this practise! In earlier studies, it has already been well documented that ujjayi breathing helps decrease flare-ups of asthma.
There are three poses in which you can do this exercise. Beginners should do this by sitting comfortably in a chair. Next stage would be to move to a cross-legged seated position (sukhasana) and finally, cobra-pose or bhujangasana (as shown). The basic method to do this exercise is the same for all three poses.
Just like in kapalbhati, if you’re a beginner, keep one hand on your stomach and feel the abdomen expand as you breathe in and contract as you breathe out. Remember to keep your mouth closed during the breathing in and out. When you breathe in, you need to constrict your throat to the point that your breathing makes a soft ocean-like sound. The breath should be taken in three stages, first fill up your lower back with air, next the sides and finally, imagine air filling up near your clavicle bones.
Now that you know a set of simple exercises, we hope you start with the easiest ones first and work your way down. The main thing to remember is that no matter how little you do, just do something. Anything. Just five minutes to start. Once you set the ball rolling, you will see how it encourages your body, your mind, and most importantly, your immune system, to stay strong!
By: Ajoy Prabhu
Co-Founder & CTO, Circee Health Pvt. Ltd. – a disease reversal platform
MS (Pathology), MBA
Ajoy is a medical scientist, innovator, and serial entrepreneur.