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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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: https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/372/bmj.m4721/F1.large.jpg
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.