Returning to Activity after COVID-19
Jun 01, 2021
Many individuals who have had COVID-19 will recover within a few weeks, but up to 85% of people, no matter the severity of their illness or their age, will continue to experience at least one symptom beyond this period. This is termed “Long COVID-19”, and most commonly people complain of fatigue and difficulty breathing, although there can be a variety of symptoms experienced. This can make it difficult for people to return to their pre-COVID activity levels and the activities they love to do. So what can you do to get back to your regular activities?
1) Start slow
Exercising is extremely beneficial following initial recovery from COVID-19, but it’s important to initially start with low intensity activity like walking or easy cycling. It may take a while to return back to your previous level of activity, so be patient with yourself and listen to your body. Once you are cleared for activity by your doctor, start with a shorter period of activity such as 10-15 minutes. Over time, if you continue to be symptom free with this level of exercise, you can increase the duration of exercise.
2) Breathing exercises
Difficulty catching your breath is a common effect of COVID-19, but doing breathing exercises can help increase your breathing capacity and help clear your lungs. Start by sitting upright on the edge of a bed or chair. Place hands on the sides of your abdomen. Keep your mouth closed as you take a deep breath in through your nose. Try to fill the bottom of your lungs with air first, letting your abdomen push out against your hands until you feel like you cannot fill your lungs anymore. Slowly breathe out through your nose. Repeat five times.
Another breathing exercise to help reduce shortness of breath is pursed lip breathing. Start by sitting upright on the edge of your bed or a chair. Breath in through your nose for a count of 2. Pucker your lips like you are going to whistle or blow out a candle. Breath out through your mouth for a count of 4. Repeat 5 times.
3) Stretch it outGentle stretches are a safe and easy way to get moving again after an illness, and can easily be combined with the breathing exercise described above. The child’s pose can be a good place to start as it is a good stretch for both your lower and upper body. Start on hands and knees, with knees placed just wider than hips. Lower your hips back until your abdomen touches your thighs, keeping your hands stretched forward. Let your chest and forehead relax down towards the floor as you take 5 deep breaths.
4) Strengthen your core
Starting with easier movements while activating your core muscles will help provide a strong base for other strengthening exercises. After a period of inactivity it will be important to rebuild your strength in a progressive program, starting with easier movements and working up to more difficult exercises. Starting with the bird dog exercise is a good way to start this strength program. Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keep your core engaged by bringing your belly button towards your spine. Keep your back straight and head in line with the rest of the spine. Extend one arm or one leg and hold for 3 seconds, then return to neutral. Alternate limbs, keeping your core engaged and back level throughout the exercise. As this becomes easier, you can lift the arm and opposite leg at the same time (i.e left leg and right arm).
Ensure that before you start activity you are cleared to exercise by your doctor. If you experience extreme shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, lightheaded, or dizziness during or after exercise, stop the exercise and seek medical attention.
Don’t let COVID-19 keep you from returning to the activities you love to do. If you or someone you know is struggling with returning to activities following COVID-19, physiotherapy can help! Call Active Physio Works today at 780-458-8505 for an individualized assessment with a physiotherapist to address your specific symptoms.
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