How to Safely Return Back to Exercise After COVID-19

Whether you spent a week on the lounge with only mild symptoms or endured severe illness, knowing when you’re ready to return to exercise after having had COVID-19 is different for everyone.

While there are no set rules when it comes to returning to exercise post-COVID, in general, most people can start to return to exercise after experiencing no symptoms for at least four to seven days. However, it’s important to note that recovery is different for everyone and that you must listen to your body to reduce the risk of poor-recovery, such as increased fatigue. So, rather than jumping back into exercise with an Olympic veracity, opt for low or light-intensity exercises.

The tips we outline below will help you to restart your regular exercise routine safely.

4 Things to Keep in Mind When Returning to Exercise Post-Covid 

Start slow

It’s important to start with low-intensity exercise and gradually increase the intensity and duration as the individual’s fitness level improves. This will help prevent injury and minimise the risk of experiencing post-exercise fatigue. As we always say ‘something is better than nothing’, so start small and pay attention to your recovery.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to any symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, or other signs of illness during or after exercise. If any symptoms do occur, gradually stop what you are doing over 1-2 minutes. 

If you have poor recovery, such as continued symptoms after stopping, then it is a good sign that you have either gone a bit too hard, you need a couple of extra days before commencing or perhaps you need some further guidance. If the symptoms continue or you are concerned at all seek medical advice. 

If you do stop due to symptoms, the symptoms subside and you recover well, ie no increase in fatigue or other symptoms, then try again in a day or two reflecting on what you did and try reducing it a little more. 

If in doubt, seek counsel from your GP and Exercise Physiologist. 

Take rest days

It’s normal for your body to feel fatigued when you’ve been fighting a viral infection, so it’s important to allow the body time to recover between exercise sessions. Even when not recovering from COVID, rest days can help prevent overtraining and reduce the risk of injury,or in this case, prolonged return to normal activities.

Practice good hygiene

Make sure you continue to practice good hygiene measures when exercising, such as washing your hands frequently, and cleaning equipment if you are in a public exercise space. It is also recommended that if possible avoid crowded places, and if you have a residual cough, then wear a mash. This will help reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

What about long-COVID?

COVID-19 has been linked to several fatigue-based disorders, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). These conditions are characterised by severe fatigue and exhaustion, that does not improve with rest and in most cases is quite debilitating.

Research has shown that those who have recovered from COVID-19 are at an increased risk of developing CFS and ME. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 30% of individuals who had recovered from COVID-19 reported persistent fatigue and other symptoms for up to 6 months after infection.

If you believe you are suffering from the effects of long-COVID, you need to cease  exercising and seek advice from your Doctor and Exercise Physiologist who will be able to work with you to provide you with advice on how to best manage this condition.

Getting the right advice

Returning safely to exercise after COVID-19 requires careful consideration and guidance from an Exercise Physiologist. However, if you remember to start slowly, listen to your body, take rest days and practice good hygiene, you can reduce the risk of prolonged symptoms. You may find some success on your own if you are not experiencing long-COVID.

If you need help to start exercising again after COVID, or if you have been experiencing long-COVID symptoms, an Exercise Physiologist will provide support and guidance on your safe return to regular movement.