Can the Coronavirus Reduce Oxygen Intake Years After Recovery?

Since Covid-19 primarily affects the lungs, athletes and mental workers need to be aware of a possible overlooked consequence to their performance.

We are not talking about any damage to the lungs. This is easily diagnosed by a competent physician and will be among the first area checked when an athlete complains of fatigue.

But there can be another chronic effect on breathing that is not easily noticed or commonly measured—a reduction in chest flexibility.

Oxygen enters the lungs because the diaphragm muscle contracts and the rib cage expands. If the rib cage cannot expand as usual, lung capacity is reduced. When lung capacity is reduced, so is oxygen intake.

Apart from wearing school backpacks, chest impacts, bench presses, sit-ups and core work, the most common cause of restricted chest expansion is infection and/or inflammation of the lungs. Whenever the lungs are inflamed, the muscles of the chest contract to reduce cool air inflow that would irritate the lungs. Whenever chest muscles chronically contract, the connective tissue (which is not very bright) thinks a rib has been broken and starts to form microfibers (mild scar tissue) in the connective tissues surrounding the muscles to aid healing. Microfibers are nature’s internal cast.

Unfortunately, once the inflammation has passed, the tension and microfibers not only do not go away, they tend to accumulate over time, further restricting chest expansion and oxygen intake.

One example is a young cyclist we worked with who had chronic bronchitis as a child. His chest expanded only one inch after he exhaled all his air and then took a deep breath. After we released the microfibers and tension that were restricting his chest expansion, he was able to expand five inches. He subsequently improved his performance so much that he made the Olympic Trials.

A group of rugby players who took up rowing after winning a local bathtub regatta made the Olympic Trials in just six months after we increased their chest expansion. Unfortunately, that year’s coach decided to make up his own team and none of the rugby/rowers joined the team. The result? The US won the Bronze medal. In earlier head-to-head competitions, the rugby/rowers had beaten the Gold and Silver teams.

A runner cut her pace on the 10K from a nine-minute mile to a 7:30-mile after we doubled her chest expansion over a two-week period. A college golfer increased his lung capacity 33% from 3.22 liters to 4.3 liters after we doubled his chest expansion from two inches to four inches. He not only was less fatigued, but his grades improved from a C+ average to graduating with A’s. (The brain requires 10X more oxygen than any other part of the body).

A 39-year-old professional soccer player went from playing from the bench to starting in 31 of 32 games and leading his team to the national championship after we increased his chest expansion from ½ inch to five inches. Three years later he was voted league MVP. He reported he no longer got winded after we increased his chest expansion ten-fold.

A national record holder in the 50-meter freestyle had been unable to win races at 100 meters before we doubled her chest expansion. After we released the microfibers caused by lifting weights and childhood asthma, she won the 100-meter race at the Olympic Trials (much to her surprise) and went on to win four Gold Medals at the Olympics.

The reduction in chest expansion from any kind of lung infection or inflammation can easily go unnoticed. I am a good example. Six years ago, I came down with pneumonia. After it passed, I felt tired. I consulted my physician who said post-pneumonia fatigue was quite common. I then had one of my assistants measure my chest expansion and was stunned to find it was only 2.5 inches. Before my bout of pneumonia it was five inches. Releasing the microfibers and tension triggered by the pneumonia restored my chest expansion to five inches and my fatigue immediately disappeared.

While we have not worked with coronavirus survivors, it would be prudent for them to measure their chest expansion as they may not be able to feel any restrictions.

First, measure chest circumference below the nipple line, blow out all the air and measure how much the chest expands during a full inhalation (making sure to expand the stomach as well). Divide the amount of expansion by the circumference. If there is no restriction, the chest will expand 20% of its circumference. For instance, a 38-inch chest will expand 5.7 inches. The biggest expansion we have measured was nine inches in a national record holder with a 45-inch chest. If you have done a lot of core work, it would be a good idea to repeat this measurement process for your abdomen at the belly button.

More information on breathing, chest expansion and Microfiber Reduction can be found at

Bob Prichard
Somax Performance Institute
4 Tara Hill Road, Tiburon, CA 94920
44 Gold Medals and 11 World Records
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