The best way back after Covid is the long way back
There is still much to learn about post-Covid recovery, but experts agree that a return to physical activity is best done slowly and gradually.
As we are only now starting to understand the effects of Covid on the body, and will no doubt learn more as time goes by, there is one simple rule to follow when starting your exercise regime after having had the illness – take it slowly. This is a time for patience and perseverance.
Approximately one week after showing no symptoms for your infection, it’s advisable to start a gentle walking routine.
The University of Colorado’s Health & Wellness Service offers this handy guideline: “Before returning to other forms of exercise, you must be able to complete normal daily activities, like doing the dishes, getting dressed and completing basic household chores. You must also be able to walk at least 500m on flat ground without fatigue or breathlessness.”
Experts in renowned medical publication The Lancet also recommend waiting a week before returning to physical activity. The group of pulmonologists suggest that athletes rest completely for at least 10 days from the time they first experience symptoms and then take a further week off for symptoms to resolve.
Leading medical organisation The Mayo Clinic stresses the importance of consulting with your doctor before starting your exercise routine after having had Covid. The group notes, “It is important to stress that anyone who wants to increase their physical activity or start exercise training after being infected with Covid-19 should first discuss this with their primary care provider.”
The organisation goes on to say, “A recent report in The BMJ suggested that while there may be certain risks associated with restarting physical activity after hospitalization due to Covid, people who experienced mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms and did not require hospitalization can resume physical activity about one week after symptoms have subsided. It is advised that these people return to activity in a gradual manner, perhaps starting with a week of low-level stretching and muscular strengthening exercise.”
The Mayo Clinic report adds, “You can build up to walking with gradual increases in exercise time, while avoiding high-intensity training or prolonged exercise during the initial return to normal activity. Those who were hospitalized should seek medical advice from a health care professional to assess their risk before returning to activity.”
Speaking to Women’s Health, Dr Rebecca Robinson, consultant in sports and exercise medicine at the Centre for Health and Human Performance, says, “In elite sports, we set the first week after 10 days off as light aerobic walking or equivalent, regaining range of motion, and no more than bodyweight strength and conditioning”. Post-Covid she suggests people try yoga or pilates, as a way to regain movement without putting too much strain on the body.
Ultimately, everyone’s return to activity after a bout of Covid will remain a personal journey. However, it’s clear that rest is advised, a slow comeback is the best comeback, and in the case of uncertainty or serious illness, it’s highly advisable to seek medical advice from your doctor.