Getting back to exercise safely after COVID-19 




Recovering from COVID-19 can be very different for everyone, and it can often be difficult to find someone who was in the exact same boat as you. With such vast COVID-19 experiences from person-person, finding the right advice to take on board can be tough.  As a keen exerciser myself, I found home isolation very difficult. There was only so much housework and gardening I could do before winding up as a couch potato!  After recovering from COVID-19, getting back to exercise becomes more important than ever for a few reasons: 


  1. To aid recovery.  

With increasing recognition of “Long Covid”, management of post-covid pathologies has been a hot topic in research. Exercise has extremely clear benefits for cardiorespiratory, psycho/neurological, immune and musculoskeletal systems. Therefore, the potential for exercise to assist in post-covid recovery is favourable, considering similar research with other chronic conditions that have overlapping symptoms. 


  1. To maintain/regain cardiorespiratory fitness and strength 

Even without COVID-19 illness, long periods of inactivity due to quarantine or home isolation are likely to affect fitness and strength levels. Isolation for me in three words: Couch, TV, food… no wonder my first exercise session back felt wearing! 


  1. To keep our healthy habits as habits 

Resumption of regular exercise is extremely important for all pillars of our health. For many people, achieving physical activity consistency takes a lot of time and effort. Let’s avoid “falling off the wagon” after COVID-19!  


So, what might be the golden advice for your first return to exercise after COVID?  


Set the bar low and start slow! 


  • Gradually return to volume and intensity – This might mean starting with a 10-minute leisurely walk instead of a 30-minute brisk walk. 
  • Be guided by your tolerance. How are you feeling during exercise? How long did it take you to recover after exercise? Listen to your body. 
  • Especially as you recommence, keep your body well fuelled and hydrated. 
  • Only recommence once you have been symptom-free for 7 days following mild-moderate illness. 


Who should seek medical advice and clearance to start exercise? 

  • Those who had severe COVID-19 symptoms during illness and/or required hospitalisation 
  • Those with ongoing symptoms after infection 
  • If you recommence exercise and experience onset of new symptoms (such as chest pain, dizziness, unusual shortness of breath) 



For more information on safe return to physical activity following COVID-19: 


Jimeno-Almazán A, P. J.-R.-C.-L.-A.-M.-I. (2021). Post-COVID-19 Syndrome and the Potential Benefits of Exercise. nt J Environ Res Public Health , 5329. 


Salman, D., Vishnubala, D., Le Feuvre, P., Beaney, T., Korgaonkar, J., Majeed, A., et al. (2021). Returning to physical activity after covid-19. British Medical Journal , 372.