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Fitness freeze: Don’t exert after COVID-19

19 May 2021

Whether you’re a young athlete or an active adult who has recovered from COVID-19 and is yearning to get back to your regular fitness regimen, or if you have a mild bout of the sickness and are wondering what activities you can do while you get over the infection, waiting for a while is said to be the best solution.

Sports medicine physician Marie Schaefer, MD, Cleveland Clinic, says it is known that the virus can lead to damage of the heart, brain, lungs and kidneys, but there’s no way to pinpoint or predict who exactly these individuals will be. Some people might also experience lingering symptoms, including shortness of breath, muscle aches, loss of stamina and exhaustion – all of which are bad news for athletes and active people.

“The truth is, the disease can affect everyone differently. Anyone, including young athletes, could experience a severe case or have long-term damage, which is why it’s so important to take this seriously,” says Dr Schaefer.

This is especially true with active individuals, as it can be difficult to tell what long-term effects someone is going to have after they recover from the virus.

Some people might fare just fine and will be able to jump back into their old training regiment, while others will find that their athletic performance just isn’t what it used to be. For the majority of active people, returning to activity will likely be a slow process and require patience. 


If exposed to COVID-19

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you’ll need to quarantine. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Athletes and active individuals can exercise in quarantine as long as they’re able to maintain the restrictions.

If diagnosed with COVID-19

If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, you will be placed in isolation. Athletes who are in isolation should refrain from doing any exercise until they are released from isolation and ultimately cleared by a healthcare provider to resume activity. All athletes and people that engage in exercise that test positive for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms, must rest for a minimum of 10 days. 


Myocarditis in athletes 

Myocarditis is an inflammatory response of the heart due to a viral infection, such as COVID-19. It can cause swelling in the heart muscle making rigorous activity more difficult and sometimes, even deadly. “Myocarditis is more likely to be found in people who had a moderate or severe case of the virus, but it can happen to anyone who was infected,” says Dr. Schaefer.


Red flag symptoms

If an athlete should suffer any of the following red flag symptoms during the attempted progression, they should stop exercising immediately:

Chest pain or heart palpitations

Nauseous or dizzy


Abnormal heart rate or prolonged heart rate recovery

Shortness of breath, rapid breathing

Excessive level of fatigue

Swelling in the extremities

Syncope (passing out)

Experiencing tunnel vision or loss of vision


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