exercise after a COVID infection

Getting back to exercise after a COVID infection


Many doctors believe that after a typical viral infection—such as influenza— it is ok to slowly return to pre-infection exercise levels. But many people recovering from a COVID-19 infection are finding a different experience. They are much weaker than they expected, experiencing fatigue and even breathing difficulties, even after they thought they were cured. 

COVID is not a regular influenza. People who were totally healthy and physically fit before their COVID infection are left with residual inflammation of their heart muscle (myocarditis), and even blood clots. Some of them did not experience severe symptoms during their acute COVID infection, so these long-term sequelae are unexpected and unwelcome. 

Unusual complications

One example, described by a sports medicine doctor, was an athletic patient in her 40s, a cyclist, who complained of leg pain when she tried to return to exercise after (she thought) she had recovered from COVID. An ultrasound showed severe arterial and venous obstruction in both of her legs. Another patient, a college student, died from blood clots in her legs that travelled to her lungs. Fortunately, the cyclist was treated and improved before suffering that complication.

Heart complications

A recent study published in JAMA Cardiology showed that out of 100 German men and women, average age 49, who seemingly had recovered from COVID-19, 78 of them had signs of myocarditis. Another study of college athletes showed that 15% had some degree of myocarditis after apparent recovery. Myocarditis, or Inflammation of the heart muscle, can lead to a potentially fatal heart rhythm during exercise, so doctors have been cautious about allowing athletes back into training after a COVID infection.


Doctors at the esteemed Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City published a set of guidelines to help counsel doctors and patients about return to exercise. The main recommendations:

1) Don’t exercise if still sick

Such as fever, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations.

2) Return to exercise slowly

Even if you only had mild COVID symptoms, you should wait at least 7 days after all your symptoms resolve before returning to exercise.

3) Start at reduced intensity

Return at no more than 50% of your pre-COVID exercise intensity.

4) Stop exercise if symptoms return

If you notice chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, or fever after you return to exercise, see your doctor.

5) Some patients need to see a cardiologist first

If you had chest pain, shortness of breath, or fatigue during your illness, it is best to see a cardiologist before you return to exercise.

6) Did you really have COVID?

If you were sick but believed it was just a cold or a typical influenza, it would be good to see your doctor and get a COVID test to make sure, which helps decide about return to exercise.

Listen to your body

Some people had a COVID-19 infection yet had no symptoms whatsoever (asymptomatic). So, if you exercise and note that you don’t feel right, you should check with your doctor before exercising more. You may have had a COVID-19 infection and didn’t realize it. The COVID-19 virus can be aggressive, with a particular affinity for the heart and blood vessels. So, listen to your body. If you don’t feel right when you exercise, stop, and get checked by a knowledgable doctor!

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website: www.ProcuraMed.com.

See also in ProcuraMed:

Exercise lowers cancer recurrence rates

Why you should smile behind your mask

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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This post is related to specialty Infectious Disease. Below is a list of some physicians related to this specialty.