When Is It Safe to Start Exercising After a COVID-19 Infection?
March 14, 2023
After a COVID-19 infection, athletes and exercise enthusiasts may wonder when it’s safe to resume workouts.
In the early days of the pandemic, there were concerning reports about athletes with COVID-19 developing myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle. A return to physical activity too soon could cause more heart damage in people with myocarditis.
Fortunately, exercise has been shown to be safe in the vast majority of cases.
A Return to Exercise
Athletes and weekend warriors recovering from COVID-19 with lingering symptoms should be evaluated before returning to play and exercise, says University Hospitals cardiologist Chad Raymond, DO.
But if you’re not feeling any symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or extreme fatigue, it’s safe to resume normal activities.
“The general rule of thumb is if you had COVID-19, recovered and you’re not having symptoms, there’s no reason you can’t go back to everyday activities, and that includes exercise,” Dr. Raymond says.
COVID-19 and Myocarditis
COVID-19-related myocarditis is extremely rare, Dr. Raymond says. And the vast majority of myocarditis cases resolve on their own quickly with no lasting heart damage.
Still, athletes diagnosed with myocarditis should abstain from most exercise for 3 to 6 months, according to the latest guidelines.
Symptoms of myocarditis include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Flu-like symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pain or sore throat
Lingering COVID-19 Symptoms
Some patients experience a range of post-COVID-19 symptoms, known as long COVID, that may last weeks or months.
Some symptoms – shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain – are similar to myocarditis symptoms. But having these symptoms after a COVID-19 infection doesn’t mean you have myocarditis.
“If you have any of these symptoms or you’re not quite feeling normal, you should follow up with your primary care doctor, who may refer you to a cardiologist or pulmonologist,” says Dr. Raymond.
“Routine screening for myocarditis after COVID-19 is not recommended unless symptoms dictate otherwise,” he says. “If they’re feeling okay, I feel confident advising people to regular resume exercise. But ease back into it.”
The experts at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute have the advanced training and experience to diagnose and treat all types of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension. Our expertise ranges from the management of chronic diseases to the most complex open heart surgical procedures – and everything in between.
Tags: Myocarditis, Chad Raymond, DO, Coronavirus