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Getting back to exercise after COVID-19

8 February 2022  |  By Christian Masson-Moyle

Getting back to exercise after COVID-19

The beginning of 2022 in Melbourne has seen lots of time spent at holiday houses, lazy beach days and long nights watching the tennis. For many as well, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and seven days of quarantine has been an unfortunate and unwanted part of the summer holiday period. 

Fortunately, many of us who have experienced having COVID-19 over the last two months have dealt with mostly mild cold and flu symptoms. However, it is important to acknowledge the effect it can have on our physical health long after the initial symptoms have subsided. 

Much of the information regarding the physical impacts of COVID-19 are still emerging but the current evidence points towards taking a considered approach when returning to exercise (Vasiliadis & Boke, 2021). Part of this is due to the fact that we are likely to be sedentary for one to two weeks whilst we battle COVID-19. This is significant as even for a short period of time, sedentary behaviour can begin to influence our bodies. For example, sitting for long periods can begin to influence the muscles we use for walking, particularly having a negative impact on muscle bulk around the hips and buttocks (Better Health Channel, 2018).

So, after spending the week in isolation, when is the best time to return to exercise? Current opinion from medical professionals suggest it is okay to return to exercise seven days following initial COVID-19 symptoms/ infection. However, being careful not to launch into anything too high in intensity is important and a gradual build up in load is the best way to ease your body back into physical activity (Vasiliadis & Boke, 2021).

So rather than looking to return to the same level of intensity of exercise that you were doing before, it’s important to listen to your body and start with low to moderate intensity exercise. This may be a light yoga session, a short ten-to-twenty-minute walk or a light jog around the park depending on your previous level of exercise.

With CODID-19, it is important to be aware that you may have lost some of your strength, endurance, and power. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, coughing, fatigue, increased heart rate or general malaise when returning to exercise can all indicate this. Being aware of any chest pain, elevated resting heart rate and extreme fatigue is important as there are links between COVID-19 and developing symptoms related to Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and long COVID (ACSM, 2021).

When returning to exercise after a mild case of COVID-19, the most important factor to recognise is that you will have been far less active for at least a week and you’re your body has battled the disease for most of that time. Therefore, re-evaluating your expectations of where you will be at physically after having COVID is significant. This can allow you to slowly resume exercise loads so that you can safely return to the same level of physical activity that you were completing previously.

For any further questions or if you’d like some more structured guidance when returning to exercise, feel free to book an appointment with any of the physios across Spring and Kooyong.

ACSM. (2021). Safe Return to Physical Activity After COVID-19.

Better Health Channel. (2018). The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking.

Vasiliadis, & Boka, V. (2021). Safe Return to Exercise after COVID-19 Infection. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 21(3), 373–377.

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