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Worried About Returning To Exercise After COVID-19?

Return to exercise after COVID-19 infection

How To Safely Restart Exercising After COVID-19 Infection

With so many of us now having gone through a COVID-19 infection, the question of how to safely resume our exercise routine is more relevant than ever. Here we review the latest guidelines from the English and Scottish Institutes of Sport. Whilst they are aimed at more higher-level athletes, the basic principles are easy to follow and effective for recreational exercisers as well. 

Who Are These Exercise Guidelines For?

These guidelines are intended for people recovering from mild to moderate COVID-19 illness. This includes the vast majority of COVID cases however, if you have had a more severe case, have been admitted to hospital or have other co-morbidities (i.e. other health conditions that may be impacted by COVID-19 infection), then you should consult with your regular medical providers for guidance on a safe return to sport and exercise.

The guidelines are based on the best current evidence available however if you are unsure about your particular situation then you should check with your health or medical providers. Also this advice may change over time as more evidence becomes available, so you should be aware of any updated information that may be released in the future.

What Are The Health Risks Of Returning To Exercise After COVID-19 Infection?

This post is aimed at helping you safely resume exercise after COVID-19 infection rather than going into detail on the possible medical complications of COVID. However, as a summary, the main areas of health concern as you resume exercising after COVID include;

1. Respiratory: the lungs are one of the main body organs affected by COVID infection. You should pay particular attention to your breathing as you return to exercise because you are likely to find your cardio capacity has reduced during your infection.
2. Cardiac: COVID-19 has been associated with myocarditis, in inflammation of the heart muscle
3. Haematological: COVID-19 has been associated with some types of blood clots 
4. Renal: your kidneys may also have complications following a COVID-19 infection

If you are concerned or have underlying issues in any of these areas you should consult your health or medical professional before starting exercise again.

A Simple Guide To The Graduated Return To Play (GRTP) Guidelines

The infographic below is aimed at more serious athletes and gives a comprehensive step-by-step guide to returning to exercise after a COVID-19 infection. The main points for recreational exercisers are as follows:

  1. You should have at least 10 days’ rest and be 7 days symptom-free before starting a GRTP program
  2. Before considering a GRTP you should be able to complete your normal activities of daily living and walk 500m on the flat without excessive fatigue or breathlessness
  3. You should have been able to stop all medication related to your COVID-19 episode
  4. Every person will respond differently so pay particular attention to your fatigue levels, breathing response and heart rate. Using a tools like fitness trackers that record your heart rate, and the Borg RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) Scale, where you rate your exertion level from 6-20 to determine how hard you are working, can be really useful
  5. If you over-do things, for example feel excessive fatigue after a session, rest for a minimum of 24 hours after your symptoms settle then return to the previous stage of  the GRTP program.

Guidance For Medical Professionals

Elliott, N. Elliott, J. Biswas, A. Martin, R. Heron, N.
British Journal Of Sports Medicine, October 2020 Vol 54 No 19

Exercise Physiologists Can Help With Exercise After COVID-19

Using these simple guidelines will help you safely return to exercise after having a COVID-19 infection. However, if you have had a more severe case or have other health problems that may have been impacted by COVID-19, then our team of exercise physiologists are here to help.

Exercise physiologists are experts in exercise prescription, especially in situations where your exercise capacity may be affected by other health concerns. They are degree-qualified health professionals who have experience working with people of all ages, fitness levels and health backgrounds. Feel free to call us on 9280 2322 or click below to contact our exercise physiology team.