The Role of Movement, Exercise, and Breathing in the Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19: An Umbrella Review


  • Tristan Carter School of Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  • Carla O'Brien National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, Faculty of Health, Southern Cross University Lismore, Australia
  • Titilayo Akinbode Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto, Canada
  • Iva Lloyd World Naturopathic Federation, Naturopathic Foundations



Physical activity, isometrics, calisthenics, inhalation, respiration, remedy


Objective: To identify the published review literature regarding movement, exercise, and breathing in the prevention and/ or treatment of the coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) and long COVID, with the goal of describing the literature and identifying areas for further research and clinical application. Movement and exercise incorporate sedentary behaviours, various forms of exercise, breathing and respiratory therapies, and yoga-asanas (postures).

Methods: This paper progresses from a live review and incorporates systematic reviews and narrative reviews. A literature search occurred monthly using PubMed and Google Scholar from May 2022 to May 2023. A measurement tool to assess systematic reviews (AMSTAR) scoring assessed systematic review quality, while the scale for the assessment of narrative review articles (SANRA) guidelines were used to evaluate narrative reviews. Only information and data focused on movement and exercise relevant to COVID-19 prevention and/or treatment were extracted from each review.

Results: Three narrative reviews and five systematic reviews were included. Sedentary behaviours increased significantly during the pandemic. Decreased physical activity level was associated with risk of hospitalization from COVID-19. Physical activity and breathing exercises, whether conducted face-to-face (F-2-F) or via telerehabilitation were associated with improvement in dyspnea (shortness of breath), exercise capacity, lung function, fatigue, and quality of life (QoL). Extreme exercise is best avoided for at least 2 to 3 weeks after severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Conclusion: Sedentary behaviour and lack of regular physical activity is correlated with an increased risk of COVID-19. Various forms of movement, exercise, and breathing may be beneficial in the treatment of COVID-19 and in long COVID. Further research and understanding of the importance of movement, exercise, and breathing as it relates to immune health is warranted.


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How to Cite

Carter T, O’Brien C, Akinbode T, Lloyd I. The Role of Movement, Exercise, and Breathing in the Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19: An Umbrella Review. CANDJ [Internet]. 2023 Dec. 28 [cited 2024 Feb. 20];30(4):32-4. Available from:




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