For those who have tested positive for COVID-19, it can be tricky to know what’s safe in terms of when you can begin to exercise again and how you should go about it. Here we break down how to start exercising safely after you’ve recovered.
Please note that the tips provided are simply guidelines recommended by professionals for people who have had mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. Before beginning any new exercise routine – and to clear up any personal queries – it is always advisable to consult with your own doctor.
Once you have recovered and no longer experience COVID-19 symptoms, it is advised to begin with low-intensity exercises and less sedentary behaviour that will reduce blood clot risks.
Research published in the review article: Considerations for Return to Exercise Following Mild-to-Moderate COVID-19 in the Recreational Athlete offers us the following information:
- Physical inactivity is a well-recognised risk to physical and mental health that is associated with increased all-cause mortality. The effects of inactivity can rapidly change the body’s metabolism. A two-week reduction in daily steps from 10 000 to 1 500 steps has been shown to impair insulin sensitivity and lipid metabolism and increase visceral fat in otherwise healthy adults. So, it’s important to start moving your body again when you can safely do so.
- Various cardiac complications have been associated with COVID-19, including arrhythmia, myocarditis and acute myocardial injury. While regular exercise improves cardiovascular health in the long-term, each session of exercise stresses the heart and can trigger potentially lethal arrhythmias in the context of underlying cardiovascular disease. Many non-hospitalised individuals with COVID-19 will likely not develop cardiac manifestations and be able to safely return to exercise. Despite this, care must be taken to ensure the absence of persistent cardiac complications related to COVID-19 prior to returning to exercise.
Cape Town-based Orthopaedic and Sport Physiotherapist, Genine Manchip supplies a 6-step guide to returning to exercise after COVID-19. She advises to begin this programme only when you no longer have symptoms and to progress to the next stage as your body adapts.
6 Stage Guide To Return to Exercise:
- Return to activities of daily living (ADL) and walking. Min duration: 10 days.
- Low-intensity cardio (under 70% HR max, under 15 minutes). E.g. stationary cycle, swimming, aerobics, yoga. Min duration: 2 days. Try our Brand Ambassador Amy Hoppy’s yoga routine here.
- Moderate-intensity / increased frequency of training (under 80% HR max, under 30 minutes). E.g. running drills. Min duration: 1 day.
- Duration increases and you can start with more complicated sports (under 80% HR max, under 45 minutes). Min duration: 1 day.
- Intensity increase; normal training commences (under 80% HR max, under 1 hour). Min duration: 2 days.
- Return to sport as normal.
You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 45 years old, subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175. To work out 80% of your max, you simply multiply 0.8 x your max (175) = 140BMP.
The overarching recommendation? Take it slow and gradually reintroduce physical activity to your routine. Don’t forget to consult your doctor with any queries or for a tailor-made approach to exercising after COVID-19 recovery.