Testing positive for Covid-19 means you have to postpone your workouts, even if you have no or mild symptoms.
Given research suggesting that the Omicron variant, which is currently on the rise worldwide, causes milder symptoms, some people who want to keep their New Year’s resolutions in place may be tempted to keep hitting the gym.
But sports medicine professionals say you should pause exercise even if you’re asymptomatic. For example, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests that low-risk patients should rest for at least 10 days after being diagnosed with Covid-19. If asymptomatic, the rest should last seven days.
“With this you don’t get a free pass to sit on the couch all day and watch Netflix,
said David Soma, a sports physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Covid-19 patients can avoid full sitting by getting up all day to do light chores and exercise, as long as they’re not in pain. feeling chest tight or tired.
And after you recover, restraint is key when resuming workouts. Jumping right back into a vigorous exercise routine can extend the time it takes to recover your fitness, or worse, lead to injury or relapse.
The typical rule of thumb when returning to sports after being sick is that if symptoms are below the neck, such as chest congestion or an upset stomach, exercise should be avoided, says Dr. soma. If symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny nose or mild headache, it’s fine to resume training, Dr. Soma says. But start slowly with low-intensity activities, such as walking instead of running, he says.
He suggests that people with mild Covid-19 symptoms follow the same guidelines after the recommended rest period.
The appropriate cadence for resuming workouts varies based on your age, previous health and fitness level, and Covid-19 experience. Those who are young and active and have very mild to no symptoms after the rest period can gradually resume their routine in a way that accelerates progression in the coming weeks, says Julie Silver, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Those with hospitalizations or underlying health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure should work with their primary care physician and possibly medical specialists, such as a cardiologist, to plan for returning to exercise, she says.
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People with persistent symptoms of long-term Covid should be careful with workouts. Symptoms of long-term Covid may include an increased resting heart rate, extreme fatigue, and coughing. These problems can persist for weeks to months after infection, making it risky to return to exercise without supervision.
“If you can’t move forward and feel exhausted every time you go for a walk, you should see a doctor,” says Dr. Silver, adding that you may need lung or heart tests.
Take three to four weeks to return to your previous activity levels, even if you’re in excellent shape and feel only mild symptoms, says Michael Fredericson, a sports medicine physician at Stanford Health Care.
He suggests adopting low-intensity activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, stretching, and yoga. Avoid lifting heavy weights and start doing bodyweight activities. Exercising with a mask on makes it harder to breathe, so you may want to avoid gyms, he says.
Start the first week with 40% to 50% effort. That can mean that you walk 15 minutes every other day. When you feel good, slowly build up the time, frequency and intensity. Pay attention to how you feel during exercise and if you experience shortness of breath, increased heart rate, chest pain or fatigue, go back. If symptoms persist, call your doctor, he says.
As with any illness, sleep, proper nutrition, and hydration are important for recovery, says Marie Schaefer, a sports physician at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Your body is working in overdrive; you need to take care of it more than ever after you’ve been sick,” she says.
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