After COVID-19, fitness fans may want to ease back into exercise
Coronavirus may have lingering effects even without symptoms, physicians say
A new year and the return to in-person campus activities may be inspiring Ohio State University students, faculty and staff to hit the gym with gusto.
Those who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, however, ideally should plan to rest for 14 days after the diagnosis and make a gradual return to exercise over at least four weeks after that period of rest, Ohio State medical experts suggest.
“When you emerge from COVID, you need to plan for a transition period that allows you to build up to more intense exercise,” said Dr. James Borchers, a sports medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“Anybody who has had COVID needs to consult with their health care provider,” he said. “They should make certain their recovery is managed and monitored, and agree to decisions about physical activity based on how exercise might affect them individually.”
As of Feb. 8, all members and visitors participating in programs, activities and services offered by the Office of Student Life’s Department of Recreational Sports are required to sign an updated facility release and legal waiver of liability. The waiver acknowledges risks involving use of fitness equipment, participation in fitness classes, and use of recreational spaces, and is an understanding of and commitment to the behaviors required by the university.
Concerns about a swift return to strenuous activity apply to anyone who has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, including those who remain asymptomatic.
“Oftentimes, even people with mild to no symptoms may actually exhibit some difficulty with a return to exercise, such as excessive fatigue or shortness of breath,” Borchers said. “Even if you feel fine, it’s not recommended to run a 10K the day after you’re released from isolation.”
Researchers have identified cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, in patients after their recovery from COVID-19, which suggests that anyone infected with the novel coronavirus is at some risk of developing that condition, said Dr. Curt Daniels, a cardiologist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
Myocarditis typically resolves over time by resting the heart, and strenuous activity is discouraged until the inflammation resolves.
And because SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus that’s still very new to the world by medical standards, researchers are continuing to assess how it affects the lungs.
“During the COVID recovery period, the virus could still have effects on the lungs and the heart. The concern is that intense activity and exercise could lead to heart rhythm problems if you have any cardiac conditions related to COVID,” Daniels said.
“It’s about being aware of any symptoms that are unusual or abnormal: chest pain, chest pressure, shortness of breath or an irregular heartbeat. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek medical attention.”