We are living in a new normal, a normal of face coverings and social distancing. Because COVID-19 is still so new to us, there are a lot of questions and uncertainty around the virus and its impact. It is, however, important to get back to some form of “normal” for your overall health. We can do this while adapting to the recommended Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and keeping others safe.
How COVID-19 Effects Your Body
COVID-19 is a viral infection; the virus sticks to the small hairs found in your nose and cells found in your mouth. Once the virus has attached to the cells in your body, the active replication starts almost immediately in the upper respiratory tract. 80% of people will have mild symptoms such as a cough, fever, and loss of taste or smell. Of that, 13.5% of people will have to be hospitalized due to shortness of breath. Symptoms and signs of distress will appear in individuals 10 days after they contract the virus. After you contract the virus, it is possible to get your lungs back to normal, but it will not be an overnight fix. As a result of COVID-19, your lungs will begin to develop scar tissue, which will take approximately six months to a year to fully heal and get back to normal oxygen levels. After you contract the virus and are symptom-free, you are able to get back to daily activities, such as working out. However, you should consult with your primary care provider on the best course of action for your personal needs.
Before Starting Back Up with Exercise
Upon arrival back into your fitness or exercise routine, make sure you are limiting your alcohol and tobacco consumption, eating healthy meals, trying not to skip meals, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule to aid in your body’s healing process. Drinking alcohol does not cure COVID-19, and the excess use of alcohol can be harmful by increasing your health risks. Before you enter into exercise, make a plan for modified exercises on your first day back. Having more than one plan and being flexible is also important for easing back into your routine. Some things to keep in mind:
- Breaking an intense 30-minute exercise into two 15-minute low to moderate sessions
- Modifying your workout
- Checking facility websites for updated cleaning, capacity guidelines, and any equipment restrictions
Once you are able to get back to exercise, avoid pushing yourself too hard; your body needs time to heal. You should only be working at about 50% of your usual intensity, and slowly ease your way back into it. Make sure to stay hydrated when working out, and monitor any other changes that your body may experience. Some individuals may feel lightheadedness or dizziness when returning; try not to panic. Slow down the workout and take a break to catch your breath. If symptoms don’t subside, then, following CDC and facility guidelines, take your face covering off to help maximize airflow. Try to avoid exercises that are extra demanding of your cardiovascular system, like a HIIT class, as it may be more difficult or cause more symptoms of lightheadedness and dizziness. Finally, as always, keep up with CDC guidelines to wash your hands regularly, stay six feet away from others, and avoid face touching.
Staying active, whether it’s in the gym, outside, or at home, is beneficial to your health and wellness. Most forms of exercise can be performed almost anywhere. Especially now, it’s easy to find at-home workouts online. Whether you are someone who benefits from doing an at-home workout, going for a walk, run, bike ride, or hike, it’s important to keep moving and stay active. And don’t forget: stay hydrated, eat a healthy snack or meal, and do an active recovery cool-down to gradually lower your heart rate back to its resting state. If you go to the gym make sure to wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol, use your face covering, and maintain social distancing. Staying active and adapting a routine is one of the most important things you can do to help your overall health during this time.
By: Erin Colling
- Exercising after COVID-19 Flyer
- GVSU Recreation & Wellness
- GVSU Alcohol & Other Drugs Services
- GVSU Campus Health Center
- GVSU Family Health Center
- Reynolds, Colleen, et al. “How to Adapt Your Workout While Wearing a Mask.” OSF HealthCare Blog, 8 July 2020, www.osfhealthcare.org/blog/how-to-adapt-your-workout-while-wearing-a-mask/.
- “Should I Exercise with a Mask On?” Mercy Health Blog, 4 Sept. 2020, blog.mercy.com/coronavirus-covid-19-face-mask-while-exercising/.
- “What Are the Effects of COVID-19 on the Lungs?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-19-what-happens-inside-the-body.