Returning to Exercise after Covid-19

Posted on Wed, Jan 19, 2022 by Lucy Sacarello

The return to activity after testing positive for covid-19 may in fact take longer than you realise and this recent paper found on average ~3weeks to be the most common timeframe. What's most important from their advice is that you DO NOT rush back too soon or push through any unfamiliar symptoms associated with physical activity.

In truth, there is still little research on covid-19 & it's systemic impact (i.e. on your whole body). Some lose their sense of smell & taste, some suffer from severe back ache & others feel fatigued for months. We understand the impact varies depending on the variant & the individual but the advice that is conclusive is simple - Allow time, be patient, progress cautiously as you build back up and listen to your body (and that's the whole body).

A recent study presented in the BJSM was conducted in elite athletes but we can all learn from their graduated return to play. A graduated return to play programme is one that introduces sport and physical activity in a linear incremental fashion.

The paper suggests certain criteria are met prior to even considering harder efforts of activity.

  • The athlete must be able to complete day-to-day mundane tasks and walk 500 m on the flat without excessive fatigue or breathlessness.

  • They should have at least 10 days’ rest (can include isolation) and be 7 days symptom-free before starting.

With access to better technology for everyone, we can use modalities to monitor response to exercise. Consider monitoring :

  • Heart rate (resting and during exercise).

  • Rate of perceived exertion (RPE = Effort level out of 10 on a scale)

  • Sleep, stress, fatigue & muscle soreness.

The paper also suggests further investigations if necessary as a result of complications i.e. prolonged symptoms. (These tools will be less familiar with recreational athletes but still accessible if truly deemed necessary) :

  • Blood tests of inflammatory markers - (high sensitivity-Troponin, Brain Natriuretic Peptide & C reactive protein).

  • Cardiac Tests (12-lead ECG, echocardiogram, exercise tolerance test and cardiac MRI).

  • Respiratory function assessment (spirometry).

  • Renal & haematological monitoring.



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