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Advice on exercising after COVID-19 infection

If you’re thinking of hitting the treadmill after contracting COVID-19, you might need to take a bit of a break before you can sweat it out.

Gyms are now open under alert level 2, with only 50 people who can exercise at a time.

However, according to General Practitioner and Sports Physician, Dr Etti Barsky, getting back into training is not clear-cut as it is after other viral infections.

“For the past 30 years, we have relied on the ‘neck check’ to decide when an athlete – elite or recreational–can return to sport after a respiratory infection,” she explained.

“This rule would extend to anything from the common cold to complicated pneumonia and if your symptoms are confined to your head and neck, for example, a runny nose, sinus pain or a scratchy throat and you don’t have a fever or muscle aches, then you are most likely clear to train.”

However, Barsky said the criteria do not apply in the COVID-19 scenario.

“There are many reasons for this, but the two that are the most worrying,” she said this week.

According to the physician, someone with mild novel Coronavirus symptoms can deteriorate around day seven of infection.

Also, cardiologists are seeing a higher incidence of heart issues in people infected with the virus.

According to the doctor, there is a 22% higher prevalence of cardiac injury in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 as compared to 1% in patients with other viral infections.

“It is currently not known how far-reaching the effects of the virus are on asymptomatic people; on people who have a mild-moderate infection and are not hospitalised and the long-term effects on those who have had severe infection either with or without cardiac involvement,” she explained.

Barsky said international sporting and cardiology experts agree on various stepwise approaches before resuming physical activity.

She said if you are asymptomatic; it is best to wait for two weeks before starting training again.

Those with mild signs should at least delay exercising until it clear all symptoms, then rest for a further 14 days before working out.

Meanwhile, people with severe symptoms or those hospitalised without heart issues should take a break until they are showing no signs, relax for two weeks and get a check-up with a doctor.

In addition, you need an evaluation and clearance from a cardiologist after your two weeks’ rest if you showed severe symptoms or hospitalised and suffer from a heart condition.

“The more high-level athlete you are, the more I advise you to go for a formal check-up which would include an ECG and cardiac enzyme level checks.”

She said the virus can cause complications in different systems in the body and therefore the best practice is to resume training slowly and steadily.

“You need to pay attention to both the physical and psychological effects of a workout.”

Barsky said there are several discomforts to look out for during, or after, a workout and these include a higher than usual resting and exercise heart rate and longer time to recover.

“Excessive fatigue, this includes knowing that you had a low-intensity workout, and feeling exhausted afterwards as if you’d done a much harder workout,” she explained.

Gym fanatics should also pay attention if they are feeling dizzy, have chest and muscle pain and palpitations.

“The best way to go about getting going again is to start with a very low-intensity session and gradually build yourself up over a three to four-week period,” she said. –

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