I’ve just come out the other side of having covid & have done a little deep dive into returning to exercise so here are my top 6 tips. And well, even if you don’t have covid, you will benefit from these 6 tips as most are an important part of a healthy lifestyle & recovering from any illness.
- Prioritise REST over exercise. Covid is an inflammatory disease and the body is working overtime to fight it, even if you have a mild infection. Exercise causes stress on the body. This is a GOOD thing – adapting to the stress of exercise is how our body improves strength and fitness. But when recovering from illness, we want to limit the amount of other stress we place on our body so we have more energy to fight the infection.
- In the first following weeks of covid infection it is ok to NOT exercise. Throw guilt out the window, your goal right now is to recover well. Pushing through can delay your recovery. If you enjoy & miss movement (I certainly did), adapt your movement to something that will support your body’s recovery – some gentle stretching or a short walk. Click here for my gentle stretching routine.
- Stay well hydrated. Hydration is super important for the body’s immune response and the ability of your organs to work properly. Don’t rely on thirst alone. A good guide is 30ml/kg body weight. So for someone who weighs 70kg, that’s around 2L of water a day. Fill up a bottle of water & have it next to you. You can even set alarms on your phone as reminders to drink. Fluid doesn’t have to be just water, smoothies and soups are great alternative ways to get fluids (and other nutrients) in whilst you are unwell.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating a wide variety of fruit/veg and minimally processed foods to support your immune system and recovery. Aim for 2 cups of fruit/veg per day, wholegrain carbs, nuts/seeds as well as lentils/legumes and fresh fish (each 2-3x/wk).
- Sleep. Prioritise sleep over the next episode or movie on Netflix. You may not have to get up early for work whilst you are unwell but prioritising sleep will help your immune system fight the illness and assist with recovery. Adequate sleep also helps improve your mood, brain function and energy levels.
- When to return to exercise – after you have been symptom free for 7 days, you can start a gradual return to exercise. Starting with short bursts of lower intensity and gradually building up. Practice a heightened awareness of your body and how it feels during and after exercise and modify accordingly.
Every body will have a different experience with covid and recovery from it. It is important to understand that recovery may also not be linear. One day ( or even week) you may feel great and the next the fatigue, low energy or other symptoms will reappear. Be kind and patient with your recovery. If you do experience ongoing symptoms, adapt your exercise to around 60% of max until 2-3 weeks after symptoms disappear.
And of course, if you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, dizziness, elevated heart rate etc (more than the usual shortness of breath and increase in heart rate from exercise), stop exercising and seek medical advice.
If you would like some individual advice on returning to exercise post covid, please get in touch.