Breathing exercises versus strength exercises through telerehabilitation in coronavirus disease 2019 patients in the acute phase: A randomized controlled trial

Clin Rehabil. 2022 Apr;36(4):486-497. doi: 10.1177/02692155211061221. Epub 2021 Nov 16.


Objective: To compare the effectiveness of two different exercise-based programs through telerehabilitation in patients with coronavirus disease 2019.

Design: Randomized, controlled, parallel, double-blinded, three-arm clinical trial.

Setting: Patients' homes through telerehabilitation devices.

Subjects: Subjects with coronavirus disease 2019 in the acute phase.

Interventions: Subjects were divided into three groups: breathing exercises group, strength exercises group or no treatment/control group.

Main measures: We analysed visual analogue scale for fatigue, 6-minute walking test, 30-seconds sit-to-stand test, multidimensional dyspnoea-12 questionnaire and Borg scale at baseline and 14 days later.

Results: From 93 subjects recruited, 88 were enrolled, and 77 patients (mean [SD] age 39.40 [11.71]) completed the 14-days intervention and were included in the analysis: 26 in strength exercises group, 29 in breathing exercises group and 22 in control group. The intergroup analysis shows significant differences between the study groups and control group in all variables (p < 0.05); Borg scale, multidimensional dyspnoea-12 questionnaire (pre-post intervention score: strength exercises group: 7.85 [6.82] - 4.54[4.82], breathing exercises group: 11.04 [6.49] - 5.32 [3.63], control group: 10.27 [6.49] - 10.59[6.58]), visual analogue scale for fatigue, 6-minute walking test and 30-seconds sit-to-stand test (pre-post intervention score: strength exercises group: 12.19 [4.42] - 13.58 [5.37], breathing exercises group: 11.18 [3.42] - 12.79 [4.00], control group: 10.45 [2.15] - 9.86[1.88]). The greatest effect sizes were found in the variables Borg Scale (R2 = 0.548) and multidimensional dyspnoea-12 questionnaire (R2 = 0.475).

Conclusions: Strength exercises group and breathing exercises group obtained significant improvements in fatigue, dyspnoea, perceived effort, and physical state, compared to control group, although the greatest benefits were found for dyspnoea and aerobic capacity in breathing exercises group.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019; breathing exercises; muscle toning; randomized controlled trial; telerehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breathing Exercises / methods
  • COVID-19*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telerehabilitation* / methods