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After COVID-19

Exercising and being active: Strength exercises

Note: If you’re still having trouble doing basic tasks, it might be too early to start exercising. People recovering from COVID-19 may find that exercising too hard can make them very tired or feel worse. Approach exercise gradually and with caution. Talk to your healthcare provider for more advice.

Your muscles may have gotten weaker while you were unwell. Strengthening exercises help make you stronger.

Try to work up to doing strength exercises 3 times a week. Work your way up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise, t​aking a short rest in between each set. Don’t worry if you find these exercises hard—start with fewer repetitions in each set and build up. As you get stronger, use heavier weights to make your muscles work harder.

Keep a good posture with your back straight and your tummy tucked in. Do the exercises slowly. Remember to breathe in during the easier part of the exercise and breathe out as you do the harder part. For example in the bicep curl, breathe out as you bring the weight up, and breathe in as you lower the weight back down.

Bicep (upper arm) curl

You can do this exercise sitting or standing.

  1. With your arms by your side, hold a weight in each hand with your palms facing forward. If you don't have a weight, you can use a can of food or a water bottle.
  2. Keep the top part of your arm still.
  3. Gently bend your elbow to lift the lower part of both arms and bring the weights up.
  4. Slowly bring the weights back down.

If this is easy, challenge yourself by using heavier weights.

Bicep Curls  

Wall push off

  1. Place your hands flat against a wall at shoulder height, with your fingers facing upwards, and your feet about 30 cm (1 foot) away from the wall.
  2. Keeping your body straight, slowly lower your body towards the wall by bending your elbows.
  3. Gently push away from the wall again, until your arms are straight.

To make it more challenging, stand farther away from the wall.

Wall Push-ups  

Arm raises to the side

You can do this exercise sitting or standing.

  1. Hold a weight in each hand, with your arms by your sides and your palms facing inwards. If you do not have a weight, you can use a can of food or a water bottle.
  2. Raise both arms out to the side, up to your shoulder level (but not higher).
  3. Slowly lower your arms back down.

If this hurts your shoulders, try making one of these changes:

  • Don't use weights.
  • Point your thumbs out from your body. (They'll be pointing up to the sky when you get to the top of the movement.)
  • Bring your arms forward a bit. (You won’t raise them straight out to the side, but somewhere between out to the side and straight out in front of you. Find the angle that’s most comfortable for you.)

To make it more challenging, lift your arms higher (but not higher than shoulder level) or use heavier weights.

Arm Raises  

Sit to stand

  1. Sit with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. With your arms by your side or crossed over your chest, slowly stand up.
  3. Hold the position for a count of 3.
  4. Slowly sit back down on the chair.

Keep your feet on the floor during the whole exercise.

If you can’t stand up from the chair without using your arms, try a higher chair. If this is still too hard at first, push with your arms.

To make this exercise more challenging:

  • do the exercise very slowly
  • use a lower chair
  • hold a weight close to your chest
Sit to stand Sit to stand

Knee straightening

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet together.
  2. Straighten 1 knee and hold your leg out straight for a moment, then slowly lower it.
  3. Repeat with your other leg.

To make this exercise more challenging, hold your leg out for a count of 3 or do the exercise more slowly.

Knee Straightening  


  1. Stand with your back against a wall or other stable surface and keep your feet slightly apart.
  2. Move your feet about 30 cm (1 foot) away from the wall. (Or rest your hands on the back of a stable chair.)
  3. With your back against the wall or while holding on to the chair, slowly bend your knees a little. Your back will slide down the wall.
  4. Keep your hips higher than your knees and don't let your knees go past your toes at the bottom of the movement.
  5. Pause for a moment before slowly straightening your knees again.

To make this exercise more challenging:

  • bend your knees more (but keep your hips higher than your knees)
  • stay in the squat position (knees bent) for a count of 3 and then straighten your knees
Wall Squats  

Heel rises

  1. Rest your hands on a stable surface for balance, but don’t lean on them.
  2. Slowly rise up on to your toes.
  3. Slowly go back down again.

You can make this exercise more challenging by standing on your toes for a count of 3 or standing on 1 leg at a time.

Heel Raises  

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