So far throughout this pandemic, the main focus of the public health message has been centred around avoiding infection – and many of us had been able to successfully do this.
But as the situation in Australia has and continues to shift, and more and more of us are facing our own personal battles with COVID-19, now is an important time for us to share advice on how to look after yourself after you have recovered from the illness.
SportsCare is here to help you remain fit and healthy without putting yourself or others at risk of COVID-19, whether you’re doing everything you can to avoid it, have tested positive and/or in isolation, or recovering. Here’s what we’ve learnt from recent research and in-clinic experience:
Research published in 2021 indicated that regular physical activity helps reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.1 Like other acute respiratory infections, your body’s response to the virus depends on factors including genetics, age, and physical state.
Regular physical exercises act as a modulator of the immune system. During and after physical exercise, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines are released, lymphocyte circulation increases, as does cell recruitment.
Simply put, exercising helps your body produce and spread important chemicals, and accelerates the reproduction of cells. These all have an impact on the lower incidence, intensity of symptoms, and mortality in viral infections observed in people who are physically active.
Physical activity strengthens the immune system, suggesting a benefit in the response to viral communicable diseases. Thus, regular practise of adequate intensity is suggested as an auxiliary tool in strengthening and preparing the immune system for COVID-19.
However, it is essential to continue following government advice to avoid putting yourself and others at risk of contracting COVID-19. Importantly, exercise is not an excuse to leave isolation.
When you are positive or in isolation with COVID-19
It is recommended that you do not exercise while having COVID-19, even if you’re asymptomatic. However, depending on the severity of your symptoms, there are some activities you can do that have a low impact on the body.
Activities such as stretching, Yoga, breathing exercises, or working on your hand-eye coordination by bouncing a ball against a wall or learning to juggle are great ways to stay active without putting too much strain on your body.
These exercises will not only help get your blood pumping without placing a lot of stress on your body, but will also contribute to your mental wellbeing. However, if these activities cause dizziness or excessive shortness of breath, stop immediately and seek professional medical advice.
If you’re after personalised advice, telehealth appointments are available with our practitioners. These appointments are available to help you remain as active as is safely possible.
Once you have recovered
Once you have fully recovered from COVID-19, are symptom-free and have adhered to your advised isolation period, an appropriate gradual progression of resistance and cardio activity is critical to minimise the length of time it takes you to return to normal activity. Returning to pre-COVID activity and training loads prematurely can delay or prolong your physical recovery.
In an interview with The Guardian’s Manuela Callari, Professor of Exercise Medicine at Edith Cowan University, Dr Robert Newton, says that the Coronavirus can damage various organs, causing ongoing fatigue.
“The cardiorespiratory system can’t deliver oxygen to the working muscles efficiently. So what was a light to moderate intensity activity previously feels quite vigorous now.”
The Professor goes on to say that sleep and rest help your immune system to fight the disease, but it is critical to start moving again to avoid further weakening of your body about seven days after the major symptoms have disappeared.
We also recommend an initial 60-minute appointment with one of our experienced Exercise Physiologists to gather initial information such as your fatigue levels, current physical activity, and short and long-term goals for your recovery.
We recommend this is followed by three standard consultations to review and progress.
The first of these appointments would be approximately a week after leaving isolation, and then we would organise follow-up appointments in line with your goals to review progress and prescribe appropriate steps for a return to full activity.
COVID-19 Recovery Resources:
ACT Health COVID Advice:
- Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature (da Silveira, M.P., da Silva Fagundes, K.K., Bizuti, M.R. et al, 2021).