The past few months have been a testing time for everyone, especially for those who contracted COVID. At Aspire physiotherapy we have worked with many people who have recovered from COVID and what we have seen is that everyone recovers differently. There is limited research or guidelines on how to best return to training or exercise following COVID infection. Considering this I felt that it was important to look at what evidence there was out there and attempt to provide a summary of what to expect when returning to exercise.
What are some of the symptoms you’ll experience after COVID-19?
Some people experience new or ongoing symptoms during COVID-19. Some of the main are;
- Shortness of breath
- Post-exertional malaise (symptoms after physical or mental activities)
What to do when returning to sports?
Ease yourself into training! Don’t return to full training, maximal effort or perform rep max training. You need to modify your training load to not overexert yourself. A graduated exercise program is the best way to go. Talk to your GP, coach, or physiotherapist to help set you up on a return to sport program. We suggest a medical clearance after COVID-19 to ensure a safer return. You may be still experiencing some shortness of breath or fatigue symptoms.
A good article by Elliot et.al (2020) recommended that for the first 10 days from onset, you should slowly build up your cardiorespiratory system; with sufficient recovery time, through walking and activities of daily living before increasing your load (i.e. duration or intensity). It is good to measure your efforts using heart rate monitors, rate of perceived exertion scales (RPE) and time. Monitor what you’re doing and to slowly ease yourself onto your regular routine. You can change the frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise you do to graduate your program. We understand it can be easy to push yourself but remember you’re still recovering. You don’t want to injure yourself.
On average, you should return to full training or return to sport after ~17 days. Keep it simple and spread out your return to sport.
Take it slow and steady and you’ll be back to your sports and training without an injury.
The Elliot et al (2020) article is a great and simple guide to returning to sport for the sporting athlete. If your sport has a return to sport guide in your specific field, we’d recommend you follow that protocol if it is aligned with medical and sporting staff’s recommendations.
- Elliott N ,Martin R , Heron N , et al. Infographic. Graduated return to play guidance following COVID-19 infection. Br J Sports Med 2020;54:1174–5.doi:10.1136/bjsports-2020-102637 pmid:32571796