‘Rule of threes’: Remove mucus buildup in the lungs during Covid-19 recovery with this breathing exercise

Covid-19 is a disease that affects your respiratory tract, including the lungs. Thus, a lot of people experience breathing issues, especially those with comorbidities.

The virus can impact your lungs in a number of ways. As per WebMD, while dry coughs are a more common Covid-19 symptom, about one-third of Covid patients cough up thick mucus and experience long congestion. “Your lungs and airways start to produce extra mucus to clear out infections when you catch a virus like SARS-CoV-2.”

Therefore, experts recommend incorporating breathing exercises in one’s fitness routine during Covid-19 recovery to improve lung function. “Those who are elderly and have aged lungs tend to do poorly as compared to those with healthy lungs. Therefore, to keep our lungs healthy, breathing exercises must be practised,” Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Additional Director and HOD – Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad told indianexpress.com.

As such, Dr Matthew Schmitt, Pulmonary Medicine, Piedmont Healthcare, suggested a simple yet effective breathing exercise to remove mucus buildup in the lungs when recovering from Covid-19 or other illnesses, according to CNN.

Rule of threes

Known as the ‘rule of threes’, this breathing exercise includes three deep breaths, three coughs, repeated three times.


  1. Stand up to allow gravity to help with lung expansion.
  2. Take a deep breath through your nose and hold it for 5-10 seconds.
  3. Exhale through your mouth with pursed lips. Repeat this for 3 deep breaths.
  4. When you exhale the third breath, give three forceful coughs.
  5. Repeat the whole exercise three times.

Explaining its benefits, Dr Devendra Kumar Singh, Professor-Respiratory Medicine, Sharda Hospital, said, “Breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose leads to expansion of lower rib cage, and lets the abdomen move forward. This, subsequently, leads to increased lung capacity and improved oxygen level. Controlled coughing has just enough force to loosen and carry mucus through the airways without causing narrowing and collapse of the airway.”

Breathing exercises help in Covid and post covid complications by getting oxygen deep into the lungs, clear out mucus and other fluids, strengthening the diaphragm, and increasing lung capacity by bringing oxygen into the bloodstream,” he told indianexpress.com.

Other breathing exercises for healthy lungs

As per Dr Jha, “Other breathing exercises that can help recovery are breath-holding, pursed-lip breathing, and breathing out forcefully from alternate nostrils. Regularly blowing balloons also helps.”

“Qigong belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing), pranayama and anulom vilom are other breathing methods one can practice,” Dr Singh added.

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