Managing your fitness routine with Long Covid
In April 2022, an estimated 1.7 million people living in private households in the UK were experiencing symptoms of Long Covid (ons.gov.uk). Long Covid is defined as when symptoms are still persisting more than 12 weeks after initial Covid-19 infection (WHO). These symptoms can include respiratory issues, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, anxiety and depression. The list goes on. In some cases, the symptoms have been completely debilitating and life changing. Are there ways to manage your fitness routine with Long Covid?
As with any illness, it is highly likely you will have lost strength and stamina. Start your exercise routine slowly and at a basic level. Don’t expect yourself to be at pre-Covid levels. Ease yourself in gently with some slow, basic bodyweight movements. Even just start with building up the length of time you can walk comfortably for. Gentle stretching can help ease the muscle aches and joint pains.
Build up your exercise routine gradually. Be sensible. Don’t put pressure on yourself by setting any targets. Listen to your body and the energy levels you have each day but don’t push it. You might be feeling really great one day but if you overdo it, it could set you back for longer afterwards. It can be tough not to be impatient with yourself. But the after-effects of Covid are still very much unchartered territory, so be careful and be kind to yourself.
You definitely won’t be planning any triathlons just yet. Schedule into your fitness routine more gentle forms of exercise. Think yoga, mat Pilates, walking. As you regain fitness you can progress. Slow swimming, some simple resistance exercises to start building strength at a steady pace.
Get enough rest
Be prepared to take extra rest days in your routine. It is so important to give your body enough time to recover from any exertion. Again, don’t beat yourself up mentally about this. It is what it is. Your body has or is, going through a lot to deal with this illness. You need to help it as much as you can.
Support your mental health
This is probably going to be a challenging time for you mentally. It’s frustrating when you can’t do what you want to do. Plus, there are no set indications yet as to how long it might take for full recovery. Everyone is different. Make sure you schedule in other things you love doing to help with feelings of anxiety of depression. Try not to put all your focus on your fitness levels and don’t pressure yourself to “get better”. It will take the time it will take. Read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts, meet friends for coffee if you feel up to it. Join networking groups with others going through the same experience. Support each other. And sleep when you need to. It’s a vital ingredient on your road to recovery.
As with any exercise after or during illness, please check with your GP first if you have any concerns.
Written by Becky Barrett.