It’s too soon to know the full impact of long COVID, but one thing is certain: millions of adults have had to change the way they exercise.
If you have COVID-19, wait at least one to two weeks before exercising. Resting will help your body to fight off infection. You’ll also reduce your risk for myocarditis, which involves inflammation in the middle layer of your heart.
Afterwards, you may be able to resume your usual activities, or you may still need to take precautions. It depends on your individual circumstances.
Many adults experience lingering symptoms, including coughing, fatigue, and irregular or elevated heart rates. Talk with your doctor about what’s safe for you and consider these suggestions for staying active.
Walking for Exercise
Walking is often recommended as part of rehabilitation after COVID-19 and many other major events, such as surgery and stroke. It’s a low impact activity that can help burn calories, strengthen your heart, and extend your life.
Try these tips:
- Start out small. Once you’re able to resume your daily activities, you can think about taking a walk. You might try a half mile on a flat surface, as long as it causes no excessive fatigue or difficulty breathing.
- Check your posture. Working on your stride can help make your walk more effective and protect you from injuries. Keep your head up and firm your core muscles. Roll your foot smoothly from heel to toe.
- Spend time outdoors. As a bonus, exercising outdoors enhances your mental health too. Pick a scenic route where you can enjoy fresh air, and green spaces.
- Invite your friends. Having some company helps too. Ask a family member or neighbor to join you. Look for local walking groups on Nextdoor or Meetup or start one of your own.
- Set goals. Aim for gradual progress. Increase your speed or distance a little each week. When you’re ready, climb up hills, or pump your arms more.
Other Tips for Exercising After COVID-19
While working out may require more effort now, the results are worth it. Some research suggests that exercise helps with respiratory symptoms, fatigue, and cognition in patients with long COVID.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Assess your risk. The effects of COVID-19 vary widely, but there are some general guidelines. You may be at low risk if you’re under 50 with no chronic conditions and had a mild case. Otherwise, ask your doctor about having an EKG and other diagnostic tests before working out.
- Pace yourself. Ease back into physical activity. Divide your workout into brief sessions of 10 minutes or less. Try riding a bike if it’s too early to resume weightlifting and vigorous sports.
- Practice breathing. Clear your lungs and reduce stress with pursed lip breathing and similar exercises. You can find instructions online at the American Lung Association and other websites.
- Rest. You may need to schedule additional days off in between workouts and pay more attention to your sleep habits. Long COVID can cause insomnia due to anxiety and inflammation. Try to stick to a regular schedule and keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Seek medical care. Listen to your body, so you can avoid pushing yourself too hard. Stop what you’re doing and contact your doctor if you notice potentially serious symptoms including discomfort in your chest, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat.
Even professional athletes have struggled with getting back on their feet after COVID-19. Be gentle with yourself, so you can protect your health and maximize your chances of making a full recovery.