For those who have been recovering from COVID-19, getting back to a “normal” routine can be quite a challenge. Because the virus gravely affects human health, people can’t just jump right into their running shoes and pick up where they left off. COVID-19 has changed many things in the world, including our approach to physical activities, and returning to exercise after COVID-19 can take a while.
But, as we will try to show further on, we know more about the virus these days which means we have better knowledge and advice to give to our patients. People going through recovery can still exercise as long as they follow general health recommendations and work in compliance with their doctors and medical teams. To help you navigate your return to an active lifestyle, we created a guide to help your return to exercise after COVID-19.
Now that an entire year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, we can say that the virus is not as unfamiliar to us as it was in the beginning. Although new strains are something we are all worried about, we can’t deny our knowledge about COVID-19, in general, is broader and grows as we speak. With so many detected cases across the world, doctors and scientists were able to learn a lot about the virus and spot the pattern in symptoms and following health problems.
The effects of COVID-19 are long-lasting and quite scary, affecting different systems in the body. Even completely healthy people have severe symptoms and complications, which makes all of us more cautious about the virus itself and the recovery process. Knowing that COVID-19 can have a large impact on cardiac, pulmonary, hematologic, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, and other systems, people are not only worried about the virus but its long-term consequences as well. They are not sure how to act after the illness nor when to get back to their regular activities.
What we know so far is that SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is a virus transmitted through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets tend to hang in the air and drop on the floors or surfaces, where they linger for a while. When a person picks up these droplets with hands and transports them to the nose, or inhales the droplets directly, the virus enters the body. The virus then spreads down the respiratory tract to the lungs and other parts of the body.
The virus causes damage to the structures of the lungs and causes issues with the oxygen trade in the body. Thus, in most cases, patients experience difficulty breathing, pain chest, and shortness of breath. The other symptoms are not far away, causing fever, extreme fatigue, irregular heart rhythms, muscle aches, and more. Unfortunately, COVID-19 can cause a wide range of symptoms and complications that could jeopardize your health and prevent you from having an active lifestyle for a long-time.
To stay safe, healthy and take proper precautions, it’s important to understand some of the primary complications of COVID-19. These may delay the entire recovery process as well as your return to exercise.
Doctors have noticed the virus causes heart inflammation and arrhythmias. The symptoms are shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest, tightness, and lightheadedness. They are common in many people who have COVID-19, even in mild cases that don’t require hospital care. In fact, studies have shown that even previously healthy people often show symptoms of myocarditis after having the virus.
When it comes to the oxygen reduction mentioned earlier, the symptoms are shortness of breath and blue-colored skin. The extreme oxygen reduction is a medical emergency and needs to be treated seriously. While doctors measure the oxygen level in patients in the hospital, those who are isolating at home can do it with a pulse oximeter.
This is a grave condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm, and travels through the system until it creates a blockage in the lungs. The blockage is also known as pulmonary embolism, and some studies have shown that it is more common in patients who had COVID-19.
As much as physical activity is healthy and beneficial for our bodies, returning to exercise after COVID-19 shouldn’t be taken easily. There have been a handful of cases of young and healthy patients who felt like exercising after having the virus, yet they experienced complications and worsening symptoms. Like doctors world-wide are suggesting, the virus affects every person differently, and we still don’t know exactly how it impacts every individual out there.
Some people can return to their lifestyle as soon as the symptoms from COVID surpass, while others feel unwell for weeks or even months. In any case, the virus has a multisystem impact and affects body areas essential for exercising (heart and lungs, for example). That’s why most doctors recommend caution when returning to exercise after COVID-19, even when there are no symptoms at all. Of course, you can still work on returning to your routine, but with caution, knowing that you may trigger some underlying problems in your body.
Following general guidelines from recent studies and doctor’s recommendations, we crafted a list of things to consider before you return to exercise after COVID.
Keep in mind that no patient should exercise if there are persistent symptoms such as fever, dyspnea at rest, cough, chest pain, and palpitations. Patients with underlying cardiovascular or pulmonary conditions shouldn’t indulge in any physical activity before talking to their doctors.
Once you start with your light workouts, you may want to monitor your progress. Keeping track of your body’s reactions to workouts can help you stay safe and prevent symptoms from returning.
As we are learning more about COVID-19 every day, don’t forget to visit the CDC website for the latest information. It’s crucial to state up to date with the most recent news and studies about the virus, so we can all keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.
Once again, we encourage active people to consult their physicians before returning to exercise after COVID-19. No one can help you as much as an experienced and certified professional who is up to date with your medical history and the on-going situation with the pandemic. If you need a physical therapist or have any further questions about working out after COVID, contact Desert Edge Physical Therapy. We are here to provide support and help people overcome this difficult period.