How to safely resume your exercise routine after recovering from COVID-19

Getting moving again after recovering from COVID-19 is no walk in the park for some people, and experts warn that overexerting too soon can be detrimental to your recovery.

Even those with the highest level of fitness who experience only mild COVID-19 symptoms can be overcome by fatigue and difficulty moving after being infected.

For Sydney personal trainer Matt Hunt, returning to the gym after days riddled with fever, aches, headaches and night sweats from COVID-19 has been more taxing than he thought.

“It’s just the energy levels that really blow your mind… they take a while to come back and there’s no easy fix,” he said.

“I’ve never laid on the couch for five days in a row, so that was a first for me.”

Matt Hunt recommends group classes as part of recovery from COVID-19, as long as you can work at your own pace.(Facebook: Matt Hunt)

Mr Hunt – who owns the Un1t gym in Sydney’s Alexandria – felt well enough to return to exercise about five days after his symptoms started, but was only able to do some gentle exercise like stretching and yoga.

“I definitely wouldn’t recommend a 1-rep deadlift.”

Experts say cautious re-entry into exercise is appropriate unless you have severe COVID-19 or chest pain while positive.

Here’s what they advise:

When can I start exercising again?

The general consensus among sports medicine professionals is to wait and see at least seven days resume any form of physical activity after the onset of symptoms.

But don’t bounce back like qualifying for the Olympics. Instead, start with low- or easy-intensity activities.

“This can be things like everyday activities for the first few weeks – for example housework, light gardening or gentle walking,” says Selina Parry, a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne.

You should be able to complete tasks like this while having a full conversation.

From there, gradually increase the time you do these tasks, perhaps by 10 to 15 minutes a day, until you reach the point where you can do a 30-minute easy-intensity walk, suggests Dr. Parry, who specializes in intensive care patient recovery.

Selina ParrySelina Parry
Selina Parry says it’s important to stop and reassess if your heart is racing, you’re coughing, or you’re not recovering efficiently.(delivered)

Mr. Hunt said his first step on the road to recovery was simple yoga.

“Just getting the muscles to burn that I hadn’t used for three or four days because I was lying down.

“I wasn’t super hyper…just doing really functional movements and focusing on the hips, shoulders and lower back to get the body flowing again.”

David Salman, who specializes in critical care medicine in the UK, research carried out that two weeks of minimal effort was the best way to get back into your exercise routine.

What if I am completely asymptomatic?

There is no evidence that you should or should not exercise before the seventh day of your infection if you have experience no symptoms.

But, says Dr. Parry, even if you feel perfectly fine after a positive test, pay close attention to how you feel when you exercise.

“Watch out for signs of intolerance.”

How to get ahead?

The most important thing to think about is the implementation of a gradual, slow return to physical activity.

After a week or more of gentle exercise, you can move on to moderate exercise for a week — such as: B. brisk walking or swimming.

“You may be breathing a little heavier than normal, but you shouldn’t be out of breath and able to converse,” says Dr. parry

Then advises Dr. Salman to focus on some more complex moves that use coordination, strength and balance, such as running with changes of direction or bodyweight circuit exercises.

“Again, without feeling harsh,” says Dr. Salman.

If you can complete these activities, you should be ready to return to your pre-COVID activity level or above.

Three women in a gym squatting with dumbbells.  There is insulating tape between each woman marking physical distancing.Three women in a gym squatting with dumbbells.  There is insulating tape between each woman marking physical distancing.
Weight training is safe as you get back into training but monitor your effort.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Mr Hunt recommends doing some group exercise so you’re with other people and telling a coach or trainer that you’ve just recovered from COVID-19.

“Having an honest conversation about how you’re feeling and what you’ve been through post-Omicron will be for the best… Coaches will point you in the right direction.”

Mr. Hunt says some of his clients have struggled severely with post-COVID fatigue, but he says light strength training can be of great benefit in the initial recovery phase.

“Nothing heavy of course, just something to get the muscle fibers moving again,” says Mr. Hunt.

“Work on your breathing and open your chest again.”

when to stop

It’s likely that you’ll be more breathless than usual as you resume your regime, but keep an eye out for any recurrence or development of COVID-19 symptoms.

“Things I would look out for – abnormal readings fatigue or exhaustion, breathlessness, racing heart, dizziness, to cough …elevated signs of symptoms or new symptoms,” says Dr. parry

chest pain should also ring alarm bells and require at least a doctor’s visit, as some people with COVID-19 can develop myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), but this is considered rare in people with mild to moderate COVID-19.

Monitor how you feel an hour after your workout and the day after.

“It’s just a matter of making sure your symptoms don’t flare up,” advises Dr. parry

“You should feel refreshed an hour later and the next day you shouldn’t be like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t even think about doing what I did yesterday’.”

The research is still in development, but according to Dr. Parry is critical in minimizing what has been termed “post-exertion symptom aggravation” which can lead to prolonged symptoms commonly referred to as “long COVID“.

And if you’re struggling to return to physical activity due to weeks of fatigue, seek individual support from a family doctor, physical therapist, or exercise physiologist.

What to expect

dr Parry says it will take weeks for some people to return to their pre-COVID fitness levels, but others will bounce back much faster.

“If you’re not active for a long time, you lose some of your fitness. Realize what you’ve been through.”

A dark-haired man on his stools, leaning forward on a floor matA dark-haired man on his stools, leaning forward on a floor mat
Yoga can be a great way to transition from the couch to the gym post-COVID.(Delivered: Klaus Nielsen)

Mr Hunt says don’t be hard on yourself and compete with your pre-COVID self.

“Let yourself go and see how hard you’re exerting yourself and how long it takes for your heart rate to drop back down,” he says.

“When If you feel like you’re working, take it back 10 or 20 percent until the next day or the next week or the next month.”

And of course, be realistic about your goals.

“Once you’ve been working out five days a week, just try getting up up to twice a week for a while, and remember that some people might not get back to their normal routine… everyone’s different,” Mr. Hunt says.

Does exercise help me?

As long as you build your routine slowly and gently, yes.

For many people, the physical and health benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks of not exercising after COVID.

However, if you’re not feeling motivated, even the smallest of steps can help.

“If you lie down and feel like you have no energy just getting up and moving a little… reach down and touch your toes or any type of mobility movement, even just five minutes of a yoga flow, you will.” do feel a lot better,” says Mr. Hunt.

“When you move your body and breathe, blood flow and oxygen rush through your entire body, making you feel so much better, so your endorphins are flying.”


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