Energy Conservation with Respiratory Recovery

Struggling with respiratory recovery after an illness can make even the simple tasks difficult to complete.

Are you or your loved one low on energy or struggling with shortness of breath after a planned surgery or unexpected hospitalization? Are you struggling with respiratory recovery from the flu or COVID 19? There are many steps you can take and general tips you can follow to maximize your productivity, while still allowing your body time to recover. 

Although I am a physical therapist, I am not your physical therapist. This blog is for educational purposes. Always consult your personal physician or therapist for individual needs (see the medical disclaimer). As an amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. Your purchase helps support this blog.🙂

Practical adjustments to conserve energy while struggling with recovery from a respiratory illness.


  • Place arm chairs in a couple strategic locations so you can sit quickly if you become tired: in your bathroom for grooming, in your bedroom for dressing, at the top or bottom of a staircase, near the kitchen sink, inside the door you come into from the car. The armrest provide trunk support and a push off for standing up. 
  • Keep items you use daily at waist height to minimize bending down and reaching up, which are more taxing to your body.
  • Avoid low chairs or soft couches that can require extra strength to get up out of. 
  • Minimize or adjust activities that cause you to lean over (sit to put on shoes and bring your foot to your opposite knee, sit down to put the leash on your dog).

Consider using a rolling cart for groceries, etc. (affiliate link)


  • Break up difficult tasks into multiple segments and spread them through the day (shower in the morning, get the mail in the afternoon).
  • Alternate a difficult task with an easy task: sit down to write a grocery list after doing laundry.
  • Do some activities seated that you might normally do standing (chopping vegetables, brushing teeth, ironing).
  • If you have a physician appointment or an errand to run, rest up before you go, and plan time to rest afterward.
  • Avoid early appointments, or plan ahead to limit stress and rushing, which depletes energy (lay clothes out the night before).


  • Wear supportive comfortable shoes, and loose fitting clothing that is easy to put on and take off (velcro shoes, limited buttons or fasteners in the back).
  • Improve your posture, as it leads to more efficient breathing.
  • Give yourself the permission to stop and take a few breaths if you feel winded or short of breath.  Also, make breathing a part of your exercise routine (per your clinician’s instructions). 
  • Take the time to read and follow all the recommendations from your health care team!!

Consider using grabber/reachers, as bending over can be taxing during recovery.

3 helpful questions to review if you need to conserve energy due to respiratory recovery challenges:

  • What are your daily priorities?
  • What are ways you can simplify those tasks?
  • What might prevent you from following your health instructions?
  • Need to monitor your progress at home? Click this link for a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen saturation at home. (affiliate link)

Clinicians: want a helpful list with all the information? Here is a FREEBIE for you! A printable handout that you can use with your clients or patients for improved education!

png file. Right click and save to desktop to print. Handouts are made to print well in B/W.

If you find this helpful, check out the Printable Senior Care and Patient Education Handout Packets on the blog!

or on

You may also want to check out these posts:

Better Breathing

Evidence Based Information on Pulmonary Rehabilitation

10 Tips and 20 Foods that may Help Recover Lung Health

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