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Returning to Exercise Post-Covid Infection

You're positive. Unfortunately positive isn't a good thing in this scenario. 

Hopefully you and your loved ones faired well with your Covid-19 infection. Are you feeling ready to get back to your regular activities? Exercise might be at the top of the list.

Can I jump right into exercise?

One thing that's important to keep in mind as you start increasing your activity level again is that your body might be over the acute phase of the infection but that doesn't mean everything is smooth sailing from here on out. There are many reported cases of "long covid" symptoms that are incredibly impactful.

You should be asymptomatic for at least 7 days prior to return to exercise


Smiling sporty woman running outdoors in park

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

To better understand how to progress your exercise, we need to discuss the Rating Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale. This scale measures how hard you think an activity is. There's no right answer and it's different for everyone. 

6      No exertion                                     14
7      Extremely light                               15  Hard (heavy)
8                                                                16
9        Very light                                        17  Very hard
10                                                              18
11       Light                                               19  Extremely hard 
12                                                              20 Maximal Exertion 
13      Somewhat hard                                                    


Any abnormal shortness of breath for a given activity level, or return of symptoms including temperature, lethargy or chest pain is an indicator to stop and follow up with your physician. 

Man with a fever and a thermometer on his mouth isolated

Phases of Exercise 

Minimally 7 days should be spent at each phase to allow your body to adapt


Portrait of a fitness man doing stretching exercises at gym      

Phase 1
Goal: Prepare for return to exercise 
Activities: Breathing exercises, stretching, balance, light walking 
RPE level: 6-8 

Phase 2: 
Goal: Low intensity activity
Activity: walking, mild yoga, light housekeeping or yard work. Progress by 10-15 minutes per day
RPE Level: 6-11
Progression when you can walk for 30 minutes at an RPE of 11

Phase 3:
Goal: Moderate intensity aerobic and strength exercise
Activity: 2 blocks of 5 minutes of aerobic exercise with a recovery period in between. Add one block of exercise per day as tolerated
RPE Level: 12-14
Progression when can achieve 30 minute session and feel recovered after an hour.

Phase 4:
Goal: Return to baseline exercise 
Activity: Regular exercise pattern 
RPE Level: Greater than 15 as tolerated 

You should only exercise if you feel recovered from the day before. Don't forget to spend a few minutes warming up and cooling down at the beginning and end of an exercise session. 

If you have any concerns at all, hold all exercise until you can be seen by your physician. 

Reach out to our office if you need help getting moving again after a Covid infection!