Do you have trouble moving after having COVID? You’re not alone. Even if you have mild symptoms, you may still have difficulty regaining your fitness.
It’s important to get back to exercising, but it’s just as important to do it slowly.
In general, most people can start exercising or playing sports again after they have been symptom-free for at least seven days. If you still have symptoms two weeks after diagnosis, you should see a doctor.
It is normal for your body to feel tired while you are fighting a viral infection because your body uses more energy during this time. But it’s also very easy to lose muscle strength with bed rest. A study of older adults in intensive care found that they could lose up to 40% of their muscle strength in the first week of immobility.
Read more: Fatigue after COVID is more than just feeling tired. 5 tips to fix it
Weaker muscles not only negatively impact your physical function, but also your organ function and immune system, which are key to regaining your strength after COVID-19.
You might consider doing very gentle exercises (such as repeated sitting for a minute, walking in place, or light stretching) to keep your joints and muscles moving while you have COVID, especially if you’re older , overweight or have underlying chronic diseases.
Read more: At home with COVID? 5 simple tips to help you breathe easier
Five things to keep in mind about exercise after COVID
If you feel ready to get back to exercising and haven’t had any COVID-related symptoms for at least seven days, here are five things to remember when resuming exercise.
1)Adopt a gradual return to physical activity. Even if you were a marathon runner, start with a very low intensity. Low-intensity activities include walking, stretching, yoga, and gentle strengthening exercises.
2)Strengthening exercises are just as important as cardio. Strength training can trigger the production of hormones and cells that boost your immune system. Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start if you don’t have access to weights or resistance bands. Simple bodyweight exercises can include free squats, calf raises, and pushups.
3)Don’t overwork yourself. Use the perceived exertion scale to determine the intensity of your work. To start, try to exercise only at a rate of perceived exertion of two or three out of ten, for 10 to 15 minutes. During exercise, continue to assess your level of perceived exertion and do not push back fatigue or soreness during this early phase, as this may delay your recovery.
4)Listen to your body. Only increase your exercise intensity and extend your exercise duration if you experience no new or recurring symptoms after exercise and have fully recovered from the previous day’s exercise. Don’t overwork yourself. You may also need to consider having a rest day between exercise sessions to allow time for recovery.
5)Beware of Worrying Symptoms. If you experience chest pain, dizziness, or difficulty breathing while exercising, stop immediately. Seek emergency medical attention if symptoms persist after exercise. And if you experience increased fatigue after exercise, talk to your GP.
Beware of post-exercise discomfort
For most people, exercise will help you feel better after COVID-19 infection. But for some, exercise can actually make your condition worse by exacerbating your symptoms or causing new symptoms.
Post-exercise malaise may be experienced by people returning to exercise after COVID infection. It occurs when a person feels good at the start of exercise but experiences severe fatigue immediately afterwards. In addition to fatigue, people with post-exercise malaise may also experience pain, emotional distress, anxiety, and interrupted sleep after exercise.
If you think you are feeling unwell after exercising, you should stop exercising immediately. Regular rest and a distribution of your activities throughout the day are necessary to avoid triggering post-exercise discomfort. Ask your doctor for advice or consult a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can advise you on the best way to manage this condition.