Easing back into fitness

Cardone, who wasn’t affiliated with the new guidelines, says the virus’s effects on cardiac health are particularly concerning.

He’s found that people who are middle-aged and older have seen high likelihoods of cardiac complications, heart inflammation, and heart arrhythmia.

He says it’s necessary that people with these symptoms address their cardiac issues first with a cardiologist and their regular doctor before engaging with mild to vigorous fitness behaviors.

But it’s not just an issue for older people.

Cardone says the NCAA is recommending that even college athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 should make sure they have their heart health checked out, and make sure they’re medically in the clear before returning to their sports.

He says one good rule to think about when returning to fitness after time away is to phase in fitness gradually on a week-to-week basis.

Start out doing just a small percentage of where you normally would be. By 4 weeks or so, gradually work your way to 100 percent your exercise capacity.

Dr. Karna Sarin, a critical care physician who’s part of Cleveland Clinic’s post-intensive care unit (ICU) recovery clinic, has worked with people who have experienced some of the most serious COVID-19 symptoms.

He echoes Cardone and Metzl in saying that the virus has affected people’s health in a wide variety of ways.

Sarin says before embracing any kind of activity, consult your doctor. They will help you devise a tailored plan to be active while still protecting your health.

“I would recommend getting the advice of your primary care provider and team of specialists who helped work with you during [COVID-19] before starting any sort of exercise program,” Sarin, who was also not a part of drafting HSS’s guidelines, told Healthline.

“Once you are clear to do so, it may be best to start in a slow fashion and eventually increase the amount of intensity and duration of exercise and activity you are doing,” he said.

“Listen to your body, and immediately stop and seek medical treatment if your condition worsens,” he added.

Sarin has worked with patients who, after receiving ICU care, have been somewhat apprehensive about returning to physical activity.

“Some patients have been concerned about this, and rightfully so,” he said. “As a healthcare community, we have to help them recover in the best way possible and listen to their particular needs. In the post-ICU clinic, we encourage them to proceed in baby steps to eventually get to their goal.”

When it comes to any general takeaway Metzl wants people to have from the recommendations, he says to take it slow.

“As sports medicine doctors, we want all of our patients to get out there and move, but this is one of the few times in our career where I’m really having to tell people to pump the breaks and pursue really gentle activity,” he stressed. “I want to make sure they have a very slow, gradual resumption of activity.”

Sports medicine doctors at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) Sports Medicine Institute in New York City recently published a list of recommendations for returning to exercise after living with mild to moderate COVID-19.

The guidelines extend to everything from cardiac issues and gastrointestinal symptoms to those who had no discernible symptoms at all.

The overarching recommendation? Take it slow, and gradually reintroduce physical activity to your routine.

As always, they suggest that you consult your doctors and the specialists you might have worked with during your COVID-19 care and treatment to devise the best-tailored plan for easing back into exercise.