The effect of Coronavirus (COVID -19) may have a lingering effect on our body and how we function. Most people who have had COVID-19 typically feel better within days to weeks, but others may take longer to recover. “Long COVID” is when you have symptoms that last weeks to months after first being infected. This can happen whether you had mild symptoms or were hospitalised for COVID-19. Long COVID symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog, headache, shortness of breath, racing heart rate, dizziness, depression and anxiety. These symptoms can affect your return to physical activity, whether that be sport or your regular weekly exercise group, and simple daily activities, such as shopping or walking around the house.
Following the diagnosis of COVID-19, individuals may experience a significant reduction in their muscle strength and endurance, as well as Post-COVID Fatigue. A graded approach to normal levels requires pacing, which means small increases daily. Exercise and physical activity are important to rebuild lost strength and fitness.
Tips on returning to exercise post COVID diagnosis:
- Ensure you are clear of any COVID symptoms for at least 7 days before attempting to return to exercise.
- Avoid doing too much too soon in order to prevent “booming and busting”; where you might 'do too much' on one day and feel unable to do anything the next, due to your levels of fatigue.
- Be able to manage daily activities well prior to initiating a return to exercise.
- Increase physical activity gradually by incorporating sustainable activity that can be incorporated into daily life eg. Walking to the mailbox to check the mail. When you feel comfortable increase the walking distance to the house next door etc.
Remember, the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the body are still unclear and you are not alone in your recovery process. If you are starting to have feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness and guilt from not being able to do something that you could do prior to your diagnosis, ensure that you seek further medical assistance and talk to somebody about it & support your return to health.