Returning to Exercise after COVID-19

Patrick Avice
EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST AND TRAINER
2
Minutes to read

Worried about returning to exercise after COVID-19? It's ok, we've got your back.

With the wave of COVID-19 cases running rampant within the community at present, it is likely that at some point you will be required to have a period of inactivity. Whether this be having to isolate at home while awaiting a test or whether you have the virus itself. Current guidelines recommend inactivity upon contraction of the virus.  Once an individual is symptom free for a period of 7 days they can recommence exercise at a mild level. (1,2)

Our Exercise Physiologists have been working with Long COVID sufferers since the earliest cases in Australia and throughout the pandemic assisting them to return to exercise post infection. Often these clients can present with a variety of symptoms that make returning to exercise difficult. These include but are not limited to:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • Persistent headaches/migraines;
  • Fatigue;
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea;
  • Muscle Weakness;
  • Neurocognitive issues (memory and recall: “brain fog’);
  • Balance concerns;
  • Abnormal heart rate and blood pressure responses;
  • Depression and anxiety.

So what is the best post COVID strategy to regain the progress made in the gym?  Here is a helpful guide:

  1. Don't beat yourself up

It can be quite demotivating and disheartening to begin exercising again and you are not at the same level as before. Maybe you can't lift as much weight or run as far as you could pre Covid. However, that is more than ok! You dealt with a virus that is affecting millions of people globally. Recovery is first and foremost a priority. Adopting a long term mindset may help deal with the immediate setback in routine. One to two weeks out of a lifetime of training is all but a drop in the ocean.

  1. Start at a level of exercise that is tolerable 

It is probably best to begin with a gradual re-introduction to training. This can involve starting with lighter weights, fewer sets and staying further away from maxing out. This may also involve undertaking sessions that are between 4-6/10 in difficulty. Big spikes in training loads following a period of rest are probably not the smartest way to go. Start small and build up over time. 

  1. Monitor your symptoms 

Once you have started training again, monitor your symptoms and see how you respond immediately after sessions and the day following. If you notice things are getting worse such as any abnormal shortness of breath, temperature spikes, increased levels of lethargy or chest pain then seek medical advice. (1,2) 

A Covid positive result does not mean that your fitness progress has to stop.

It may be a minor setback for a couple of weeks to months, however there is still so much progress to be made once you are able to get back into a routine! We’ve had clients go from being breathless, dizzy and nauseous after 160m of walking to completing a full 30-minute session of boxing.

 

If you are looking for help and guidance on how to resume or develop an exercise plan with clinicians who have experience in post Covid symptoms, reach out to us on info@thebiomechanics or call 1300 920 520 to organise an initial consultation with one of our allied health team. 

References:

1.    Salman D, Vishnubala D, LeFeuvre P, Beaney T, Korgaonkar J, Majeed A. Returning to physical activity after covid-19 BMJ 2021; 372.

2.    Greenhalgh T, Knight M,A’Court C, Buxton M, Husain L. Management of post-acute covid-19 in primary care. BMJ 2020;370. 

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WE WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE BOON WURRUNG AND WURUNDJERI PEOPLES OF THE KULIN NATIONS WHO ARE THE CUSTODIANS OF THE LAND ON WHICH WE GATHER. WE PAY OUT RESPECTS TO THEIR ELDERS, PAST, PRESENT AND EMERGING.