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How To Safely Return To Exercise After COVID-19

Getting back into your movement practice may seem a little daunting when recovering from COVID-19, so we want to help guide you through the recommended return to exercise based on the current evidence.

Research regarding the return to exercise post COVID-19 is still in its infancy, the most important aspect is listening to your body, as most of the time, it will tell you when it's ready.

It is also important to note that everyone is different; your prior fitness levels, your own experience with COVID-19 and your recovery times can all impact your return, so please take the following as a guide and remember this does not replace the advice from medical professionals, so if you're unsure, contact your doctor.

Check out this Reel I created on returning to exercise after covid-19

Understanding your COVID-19 symptoms

Even the milder symptoms of COVID-19 can knock you about for weeks after your 7 day isolation period. Symptoms such as fatigue, body aches and fever can tire the body and make it harder to return to your pre COVID-19 fitness levels.

Whilst most people will experience mild symptoms, the risk of secondary infection in other organs can occur around a week from symptom onset. It is suggested that those suffering any longer term consequences from COVID-19 (aka long-covid) should avoid getting back into exercise until their symptoms have subsided or until they have had approval from their GP.

When can I get back into exercise after COVID-19?

As aforementioned, the risk of infection can occur up to a week following the onset of symptoms, the research therefore recommends returning to exercise should only occur after an asymptomatic period of at least seven days.

Taking your pre COVID-19 fitness into account, it is recommended that you should feel that you are able to complete both your activities of daily living and a 500m flat walk without feeling excessive fatigue or breathlessness prior to recommencing your exercise routine.

How do I know how much to exercise after COVID-19?

The following phases have been identified by Salman et al (2021) to phase you into a return to physical activity. As mentioned, these recommendations should be used as a guide only and keep in mind that your COVID-19 experience is unique to you.

The following table shows the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale which is a way to measure your physical activity level. Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is

working during physical activity, based on your heart rate, breathing rate, sweat and muscle fatigue. The scale is a completely subjective measure, meaning that you need to self monitor based on how you are feeling.

Currently COVID-19 positive

It's time to rest. No matter what fitness journey you are currently on, nothing is more important than your health. Returning to exercise too early or whilst you are still experiencing symptoms can be detrimental to your overall health. Listen to your body, focus on mental well being and let your body heal.

Phase 1 - No symptoms for at least 7 days

Exercise Advice

Breathing exercises, flexibility/stretches, balance and gentle walking

Suggested RPE: 6-8

Recommended Go Chlo Pilates classes:

Phase 2

When to progress to phase 2?

At least a week at phase 1 with no worsening of symptoms

Exercise Advice

Low intensity activity such as walking and light yoga/stretch and light household talks, gradual increases by 10-15 minutes/day

Suggested RPE: 6-11

Recommended Go Chlo Pilates classes:

Phase 3

When to progress to phase 3?

When you can walk 7 days and when can walk 30 minutes at RPE 11

Exercise Advice

Small intervals (e.g. 5 mins) of aerobic exercise separated by recovery blocks

Suggested RPE: 12-14

Recommended Go Chlo Pilates classes:

Phase 4

When to progress to phase 4?

7 days and when can achieve 30 minute session and feel recovered after an hour

Exercise Advice

For every 2 days training, take one full day of rest

Suggested RPE: 12-14

Recommended Go Chlo Pilates classes:

Phase 5

When to progress to phase 5?

7 days and when fatigue levels are normal

Exercise Advice

Return to regular exercise pattern

Suggested RPE: >15 as tolerated

Recommended Go Chlo Pilates classes:

To conclude, everyone will have a unique experience returning to exercise after COVID-19. Whilst we are big advocates for moving our bodies, sometimes it's important to let your body do its thing and recover completely and if that means resting in bed watching Netflix, that's okay!

Be kind to yourself, and we can't wait to see you on the mat when you are ready!

We have compiled our best suited Go Chlo Pilates classes for COVID-19 recovery and gentle return to exercise on our on-demand platform, check it out here

This blog was based on the work by:

Salman, D et al. (2021). Returning to physical activity after COVID-19. BMJ. 372. Doi: 10.1136/bmj.m4721

Written by Jordi Zeevi and Chloe de Winter


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