Returning to Exercise After Having Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, as does our understanding of what the virus does to our bodies. There is emerging research that points to potential harm if you exercise while infected or too soon after being infected. Let’s take a look at the research.

Difficulty returning to activity after having coronavirus

One area we have some insight on is related to return to activity after having coronavirus. People can have a range of symptoms with varying severity, with some not even having any symptoms at all. However, anyone who has had coronavirus should be cautious when returning to activity after the initial infection. With over two million people in the United States who have recovered from the virus, there are plenty of reports of people experiencing difficulty returning to their previous level of activity. Shortness of breath, lingering fatigue, and chest tightness seem to stick around a long time.

What’s the safest way to return to exercising?

We are still learning a lot about the coronavirus and how it impacts us. As such, guidance continues to evolve. In general right now, doctors are recommending you take it slow when getting back into any exercise or activity after being infected. Listen to your body and don’t push it too much. In more severe cases, even more caution is required when getting active again.

The Hospital for Special Surgery Sports Medicine Institute recently laid out some more specific guidelines for recreational athletes who had mild and moderate cases, based on what symptoms you experienced from coronavirus. These are subject to change, of course, as we learn more. They currently recommend the following:

  • If you had blood or hematologic symptoms: start with low-intensity exercise and limit sedentary behavior to reduce blood clot risk.
  • For respiratory symptoms: rest for at least a week after symptoms go away, and gradually return to activity thereafter. Monitor your breathing as you do so.
  • If you had cardiac symptoms: rest for two or three weeks after symptoms subside. If you had myocarditis (heart inflammation), wait at least three to six months before returning to an exercise routine.
  • For gastrointestinal symptoms: monitor your fluid and caloric intake while returning to activity.
  • If you had musculoskeletal symptoms: take a gradual approach when returning to activity.
  • If you had no symptoms: gradually return to activity if it has been at least a week without symptoms showing up. Return at 50% of activity level to start with, and then increase slowly from there.
  • To reiterate, these are evolving guidelines for recreational athletes who had mild or moderate symptoms. Take it slowly, and consult your doctor to make sure you are returning to activity safely.

The importance of taking it slow

Why is all of this so important? The coronavirus appears to often take a significant toll on our bodies, even if we have a mild or asymptomatic case. For example, a study of 100 people who had recently recovered from coronavirus showed some troubling trends related to heart health. After undergoing cardiac MRIs, 78 of the 100 participants showed structural changes to their hearts, and 60 of the 100 had myocarditis. None of the participants had severe cases of coronavirus- half had mild or moderate symptoms, and 18% were asymptomatic. None of the participants had any cardiac symptoms while they were ill. Unaddressed, myocarditis can cause significant complications, including sudden death in severe cases.

This example goes to show how serious we are discovering the coronavirus’ impact to be. We are learning more and more each day. So, if you were sick and are itching to get back into your exercise regimen, take it easy and make sure you talk with your doctor.

If you are trying to return to activity after being sick with the coronavirus, you should seek guidance and treatment from a qualified medical professional like Dr. Stacie Grossfeld. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Grossfeld, call Orthopaedic Specialists at 502-212-2663 today.