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After COVID-19

Exercise after COVID-19

​​Exercise is a type of physical activity that is planned, structured, and has a purpose. You do it to improve your physical fitness.

Exercise includes physical activity that makes your muscles stronger, makes your body more flexible, and gives you better aerobic fitness (heart and lung health).

It's important to slowly start doing other physical activity before adding exercise.

When can I start or return to exercise after COVID-19?

Exercise could make COVID-19 symptoms worse or cause new ones to appear.

Follow these guidelines for starting or returning to exercise.

First 10 days

Do not exercise in the first 10 days after a positive COVID-19 test or the start of symptoms.  Be careful even if you have no symptoms at first. COVID-19 symptoms may start later than usual.

You have no symptoms

If you have no symptoms, wait at least 10 days after a positive COVID-19 test before starting exercise. Then start with light exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate. If you feel well, keep exercising at a level that feels right for you.

You have symptoms

If you have symptoms, wait until they're gone before you exercise. Make sure you're back to your usual routine and can do your regular activities of daily living without making your symptoms worse.

You have ongoing or new symptoms

If you continue to have symptoms or new symptoms start when you become more active, be careful. Talk to your doctor before you exercise. Focus on managing your energy and symptoms.

How do I know if it's too early to exercise?

Doing too much too soon can make your symptoms worse. If your symptoms get worse when you're active, stop exercising and get medical advice.

It's too early to exercise if you:

  • have trouble doing basic tasks like getting dressed or showering
  • have ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 (such as feeling very tired, having a fast heart rate, or feeling dizzy)
  • have symptoms that aren't getting better, are coming back, or new symptoms
  • have more severe long COVID symptoms and can't return to your usual activity

If it's too early for you to exercise, focus on the things that help you feel better.

What should I do when I'm ready to exercise?

Here are some guidelines for exercising safely when you're ready:

  • Be slow and careful when you start.​
  • Stop and rest if your symptoms get worse during exercise. If you don't recover after resting, you may need to stop exercising and wait until your symptoms are better. If you recover with rest, exercise for less time at an easier pace.
  • Pace yourself so you don't make your symptoms worse, get injured, or have new symptoms.
  • Keep prescription medicine—such as an inhaler for a lung condition or nitroglycerine for a heart condition—with you when you exercise. Make sure your prescriptions are current.
  • Track how you feel during and in the hours and days after exercising. Tracking can help you see if exercise is making you feel worse.
  • Warm up before exercising and cool down after exercising.
  • Exercise at the right level for you (see below).

For more advice on exercise, watch the video Tips for getting started with exercise after COVID-19.

Am I exercising at the right level for me?

Exercise is meant to keep you fit or get your more fit. To do that, you need to exercise at the right level for you.

To know you are exercising at the right level, think about speaking a sentence:

  • Too hard: You cannot speak at all, can only say 1 word at a time, or are feeling short of breath. Slow down or stop and rest.
  • Just right: You can speak a full sentence, pausing once or twice to catch your breath, and you're only a little short of breath. Keep going.
  • Easy: You can speak a full sentence without stopping and are not feeling short of breath. Speed up a bit.

If your symptoms are getting worse after you exercise, stay in the easy zone.

Tracking your symptoms can also help you know if you are exercising at the right level and not making your symptoms worse.

Learn more about symptom tracking by watching the video Exercising at the right level and monitoring symptoms after COVID-19.


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