How to exercise: Exercising after Covid-19 | fitness
TThe Omicron variant has triggered an avalanche of Covid-19 cases in Australia in recent months. While most people who catch the disease have mild symptoms, many report feeling short of breath and sluggish for weeks.
“It’s normal to feel tired after a viral infection, and everyone’s recovery is different,” says Janet Bondarenko, senior respiratory physiotherapist at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. “But the severity of your Covid illness does not necessarily predict whether you will have these ongoing symptoms.”
The coronavirus can damage various organs and cause persistent fatigue, says Dr. Robert Newton, Professor of Exercise Medicine at Edith Cowan University. “The cardiorespiratory system cannot efficiently deliver oxygen to working muscles. What used to be a light to moderate intensity activity now feels quite vigorous.”
Sleep and rest help your immune system fight the disease, but it’s important to get moving again to avoid further weakening your body about seven days after the main symptoms disappear, Newton says.
Exercise increases the capacity of muscles, heart and lungs, as well as the number of mitochondria – the energy factories in muscle cells – which counteract the debilitating effects of infection.
Here’s a simple guide that can help you get moving again, but it’s recommended that you seek advice from your GP or an exercise physiologist before beginning any exercise program.
The course: yoga
There is some evidence that the practice of yoga and meditation can help improve lung health, reduce virus susceptibility and speed up recovery against acute respiratory infections thanks to its relaxing effect.
“Controlling stress and anxiety is critical to recovery,” says Newton. “It’s very important to look at strategies like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga to help the body recover from the coronavirus infection.”
in one paper Researchers published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine stated that “certain meditation, yoga asanas (postures), and pranayama (breathing) practices may be potentially effective complementary tools […] contribute to reducing the severity of Covid-19 disease, including its side effects and sequelae.”
The Move: Bodyweight exercise
Newton says incorporating resistance training is key to reactivating muscles. He says bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups on your knees are a good place to start.
As you gradually regain strength, you can begin to add light weights to your routine using milk cartons or a weighted backpack.
Light resistance training triggers the production of hormones and cell signaling molecules like cytokines, which work with the immune system to help the body repair itself.
The activity: walking
According to Bondarenko, walking is the most accessible physical activity after a Covid-19 infection. Especially when you can do it outdoors, Newton agrees.
Anyone can easily control the intensity of their walking, they say.
Bondarenko says it is ideal to start with easy, short walks. You can gradually increase the length and pace of your walks as long as it doesn’t make you extremely tired or out of breath.
The hard pass: Don’t overwhelm yourself
Pushing through when you’re still feeling sluggish after Covid-19 won’t speed up your recovery, Bondarenko says. “It pushes you back a few steps instead of helping.”
She says it’s important to gradually give himself more time to get back to his pre-Covid form. “Recovery is different for everyone, but over time everyone gets back to where they want to be.”
“Use your body as a barometer,” says Newton. “Test your perceived effort to make sure you’re not pushing the system into overtraining, as this will affect your recovery.”