Exercise after Covid

Exercise after Covid

Written by Marleen Swart, Personal Trainer since 2014 in South Africa

If you are one who had the Covid virus and you have recovered from it, we thank God for it but you might itch to get back to exercising again. Although we still have little information with regards to Covid and the aftermath of it, there are already studies that have been conducted with regards to the aftermath of this virus. 

According to Dr. E Barsky, a general practitioner and sports physician, we can’t rely on the neck test to see whether you may or may not exercise when it comes to the Covid. With the neck test when it comes to flu or a common cold, you may do mild exercises when the symptoms are above the neck. But according to Barsky, you can not do that with the Covid because someone with mild Covid symptoms, can get worse after 7 days. The other thing is that cardiologists see a 22% rate of people with heart issues who had the covid versus 1% of patients with other viral infections. 

So when am I ready to resume exercising after I had the Covid?

In my personal opinion, since I have become a personal trainer, I always advise people to not exercise at all, when they have a cold or flu. They can only start again after two weeks when the cold or flu has subsided. I would agree with international cardiology experts and say:

Only resume exercise when all symptoms have subsided and you have seen your doctor for a follow-up. When they give you the green light, then only you resume a exercise routine. 

How should I return to my exercise routine?

Dr. M Schaefer, sports medicine physician says that when you return to your exercise routine, that you should do it under the supervision of an athletic trainer when you are an athlete. She furthermore states that you should do it in stages. You only progress to the next phase of your training, if you are symptom-free. 

What Schaefer means by the next phase of training, in my opinion, is that when you start your exercise program, start slow. Start with walking for 15-20 minutes before your workout. When you have done your walking, see how you feel. If you feel okay, then continue with your exercise program. Try to eliminate exercise which is high intensity cardio exercises. Try to only do your exercises without implementing HIIT in between like jumping, running, or step. Try to do this for a period of two to four weeks, then if you stay symptom-free and feel okay, you continue to your next phase of training. This is where your personal trainer can also help monitor your training and you as a person during exercise sessions in the beginning after you had recovered from Covid-19. 

What I have learned when it comes to illness in my profession

If you have recovered from Covid-19 or any other illness, make sure you are not too hard on yourself. I’ve seen it many times before where someone who was sick, come back to training, and then everything is way harder than it was before they got sick. Remember, your body went through a lot and now needs to get back to where it was because it has changed. Listen to your body. If you feel weak, take it slower. Do fewer reps and push less weight. You can even start with a shorter duration as well and work yourself up to where you were before the Covid-19 or other illnesses have brought you down. 

If you have recovered, I am happy for you and here’s to the future. 


Dr. E. Barsky, Exercise after a Covid-19 infection, 25 August 2020

M. Schaefer, Returning to Sports or exercise after recovering from Covid-19, 15 February 2021

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