COVID-19 can be very debilitating for your system and returning to your exercise routine after a bout of infection may take some time. If you don’t allow your body to rest and heal, it may weaken you further and eventually lead to reinfection or relapse. And since post-COVID 19 comes with its own set of complications – particularly myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) for long-distance drivers – one needs to be careful. Regardless of your age or fitness level, discuss it with your doctor before resuming your activity.
So when can someone start running or exercising again after COVID-19? Dr. Viveka Kumar, principal director and head of catheter labs at Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket says, “No matter how active, ready and agile you are, you should start gently, starting with walking and increasing your tolerance. Then you can resume intense activities, raising your heart rate. Your heart gradually. But above all, do not push yourself.” Both BMJ and HSS have conducted studies on recovering patients and suggest the following: “In the first week back, reduce your normal training load by 50 percent. In the second week, you can increase your mileage up to 70 percent of your previous size. If you’re still on the Alright, in week three you can resume 80 percent of your weekly turnover, then in week four you can resume up to 90 percent of your previous volume. In week five you can resume 100 percent of your previous turnover.”
Here is a quick tip from Dr. Kumar:
When can anyone safely start running or exercising after COVID-19?
I would suggest running or exercising after only two months. It depends on the type of COVID-19 you contracted. If it is mild or asymptomatic, you can start light activity after 10 days. If you have oxygen problems, you should wait at least a month. But if you don’t have any oxygen requirements, then you can increase your brisk pace after a week or ten days.
Why is waiting necessary?
Since many COVID-19 patients have reported heart attacks and cardiac arrests in the recovery phase, one must be careful about not overstressing the heart. We see younger patients, in their late twenties and thirties, reporting heart attacks associated with COVID-19. So everyone should have a cardiac evaluation, even those who are asymptomatic or have mild manifestations of the infection. Those with current or past cardiovascular problems should also get a fitness test before they start running or exercising. Waiting is necessary to understand what the body can and cannot tolerate. If you have experienced cardiopulmonary symptoms such as chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness or fainting during and after the injury, further tests should be done before returning to exercise after COVID.
What are the precautions to be taken?
You should not go out on the first day. Patience and perseverance are needed. Even when you resume running or workouts, spread your intensity, and separate them. Remember that even athletes need to walk slowly lest they harm their health. Stop immediately if you feel a lack of energy or fatigue. Seek help immediately if you experience chest pain or palpitations after the session. Eat healthy to restore peak performance. Hydration and nutrition are very important.
Does COVID-19 permanently affect a person’s ability to run or exercise routine?
COVID-19 is a new virus and its lasting and long-term effects have not been comprehensively determined. Unless the virus has hit the body hard, most people can fully recover and return to their old routine.
Do variants, vaccinations, and boosters play a role?
Variables affect people differently, and therefore, each individual can run and gym depending on how severe or moderate they stumble. Those who have been vaccinated can return to running or exercising more easily.
Will running or the gym be good for the body after COVID-19?
Exercise is essential. It strengthens immunity, builds strength and helps you get back to normal.