While our knowledge of this virus is limited, it is continually and constantly evolving. A recent study showed that almost 50% of all patients that ‘recovered’ from the virus still displayed at least one symptom, commonly reported to be fatigue and difficulty sleeping (Huang et al., 2021).
The lingering effects of the virus such as fatigue and muscle pain may reduce the capacity and desire to resume pre-illness exercise routines. While the effects of exercise following COVID 19 are still being investigated, there are currently some helpful guidelines to help us get started with our physical activity programmes (Barker-Davies et al., 2020; BJSM, 2020; Demeco et al., 2020; Füzéki, Groneberg and Banzer, 2020; Metzl et al., 2020). Patients with prolonged symptoms aka ‘Long Covid’ may benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, focusing on both their physical (exercise, nutrition) and mental health (BJSM, 2020).
Due to the uncertain nature of the virus, caution is advised when resuming an exercise programme following COVID 19 infection. It is preferable to consult your doctor before starting, even if you have had mild illness. Further, when physical activity does resume, it should be graded appropriately and preferably based on the recommendation of a medical professional such as a sports physician/biokineticist. Appropriate physical activity following illness may help reduce the negative effects of cardiorespiratory and muscular deconditioning following weeks/months of inactivity (Füzéki, Groneberg and Banzer, 2020; Metzl et al., 2020). Exercise has also been shown to help manage and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety (Füzéki, Groneberg and Banzer, 2020).
To top it all off, moderate physical activity in the absence of illness, has been shown to support and promote a healthy immune function, improve sleep quality and has also shown to prolong antibody activity following an influenza vaccine ! (Barker-Davies et al., 2020; Füzéki, Groneberg and Banzer, 2020).
1. Barker-Davies, R. M. et al. (2020) ‘The Stanford Hall consensus statement for post-COVID-19 rehabilitation’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54(16), pp. 949–959. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2020-102596.
2. BJSM (2020) “Return to exercise” – helping patients to overcome the long tail of covid-19. Available at: https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2020/12/18/return-to-exercise-helping-patients-to-overcome-the-long-tail-of-covid-19/.
3. Demeco, A. et al. (2020) ‘Rehabilitation of patients post-COVID-19 infection: a literature review’, Journal of International Medical Research, 48(8). doi: 10.1177/0300060520948382.
4. Füzéki, E., Groneberg, D. A. and Banzer, W. (2020) ‘Physical activity during COVID-19 induced lockdown: Recommendations’, Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, 15(1), pp. 1–5. doi: 10.1186/s12995-020-00278-9.
5. Huang, C. et al. (2021) ‘Articles 6-month consequences of COVID-19 in patients discharged from hospital : a cohort study’, The Lancet. Elsevier Ltd, pp. 1–12. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32656-8.
6. Metzl, J. D. et al. (2020) ‘Considerations for Return to Exercise Following Mild-to-Moderate COVID-19 in the Recreational Athlete’, HSS Journal. HSS Journal ®, 16, pp. 102–107. doi: 10.1007/s11420-020-09777-1.