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COVID and Return to Exercise or Fitness

Return to Fitness and Exercise after COVID

As we continue to adapt to a world with COVID, probably the most consistent and important thing you can do is maintain a high level of health. Many of us have had to change the normal routine of exercise we had established because of social distancing, closure of fitness facilities and the concerns for safety.
However, there is also the issue of what is the best way to ensure you are safe returning to activity and exercise if you have had a COVID infection. We know that COVID can have a fairly significant impact on the function of our heart and lungs, and as the science continues to grow, there are specific recommendations to return safely to exercise, fitness and sport.
The recommendations that follow are based on a guidance from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine for athletes, but we believe can be applied to those returning to a fitness or exercise regimen. To begin, it involves 10 days of rest from onset of symptoms and being symptom free for at least 7 days. Next, a person needs to be off all medications used to treat symptoms or the illness, at which time they can begin the return to activity protocol.
We recommend beginning light activity (walking, light jogging or stationary cycling) for 2 days after the 10-day rest period mentioned above. Your target heart rate should be less than 70% of your maximum heart rate and no more than 15 minutes.
Day 3 would be advancing the load slightly, with a target heart rate no more than 80% of your maximum and no more than 30 minutes. From here each day progresses with a gradual increase in heart rate by 10% and 15 minutes per session.
You also need to know your underlying heart or lung status. For those with a history of heart or lung illnesses, whether historical or current, we highly recommend a visit with your doctor to assess whether there has been any change in the functional status of your lungs or heart. This can be started fairly easily with basic tests performed in the office.
If you do not have any heart or lung history, you can begin the above protocol, but if you find yourself having heart or lung symptoms (or really any unusual symptoms) you should seek an appointment with your doctor.
COVID can cause damage to the heart and lungs that you will feel as chest pain, dizziness with exercise, and shortness of breath that is out of proportion to your level of exertion. This can signify underlying damage which if ignored can serious medical issues.
If you have recently recovered from COVID, getting back to your optimal health should be a priority. We encourage you to consult with your primary care doctor or a sports medicine physician regarding an evaluation to make sure you are safe to return to activity and exercise. For more information, visit us at the Center for Health and Sports Medicine (904-240-0442) or go to our website,

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