Returning to Exercise after Covid


Exercise Physiologist, Kelly Luck guides us through how to get back into exercise after covid, what to expect and how to progress safely.

Fatigue is common symptom of Covid that can hang around after the flu symptoms go. The thought of returning to exercise might seem exhausting on its own, let alone exercising itself. As your body recovers from Covid, it’s important to start moving but just as important to listen to what your body can handle. This will look different for everyone!

When can I start exercising again after Covid?

Exercise Physiologist, Kelly Luck

Waiting 7 days from when you first experience Covid symtoms before returning to exercise, is the consensus amongst research. It’s recommended that you start with low intensity activities – this will look different for everyone! For some, household chores and other daily activities will be enough for low intensity, for others a gentle walk or yoga might tick the low intensity box.

Low intensity exercise means you should be able to hold a conversation whilst doing the exercise.

Whatever you can start with, gradually increase the time you spend exercising by 5-15 minutes each day until you can complete a 30 minute walk at light intensity.


What should I expect when commencing exercise again?

Anytime without exercise (Covid or other reasons) can result in significant loss of fitness and contracting Covid is no exception. To allow your body tissue strength and endurance to build back up, expect it to take longer than you think and give yourself time to return to your pre-Covid fitness levels. Everyone’s fitness recovery timeframe will be different, don’t compare yours to others!

When exercising again, you can expect to feel more tired quicker than your pre-Covid fitness days. Your heart rate may be higher and for a longer period of time during exercise too. If exercise feels labouring, try reducing your load – intensity, sets, weight, reps or duration the next time you exercise.


When should I stop?

When exercising after Covid, you should be able to feel like you have fully recovered from exercise about an hour after finishing. If you experience abnormal levels of fatigue or exhaustion, breathlessness, racing heart, dizziness, cough, chest pain or any increased signs of symptoms or new symptoms, this is a good indicator to stop exercise and consult a medical professional.


How do I progress?

We’re sure you’ve heard the saying “slow and steady wins the race!”, well this is the post-Covid return to exercise motto! After managing low intensity activities for at least the first week of exercising, you can try progressing to moderate intensity activities. Again, this will look different for everyone! Brisk walking, cycling or swimming may be your progression or, increasing intensity, reps, sets, weight or duration is a good way to progress a variety of different exercises. With any progression you choose, you should still be able to hold a conversation during the exercise.

If returning to resistance exercises or weight training, progress your weights slowly, starting with light to moderate weights. Once you can perform these without issue, increase the weight or resistance slowly, allowing for your recovering body to adapt. You should still feel recovered an hour after exercises – this is a good indication that you can start progressing again.


Does exercise help?

In short – yes! The physical and health benefits from being physically active significantly outweight the risks of not engaging in exercise post-Covid for many people. We all know the physical benefits of exercise, however getting moving again after being sick (any sick, not just Covid) can be greatly beneficial for our mental health too.


Our Exercise Physiologist, Kelly is here to help you get moving again safely after Covid (or any illness!).

Kelly offers online telehealth and in-clinic appointments, click here to book.

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