If you’re not a professional athlete (and therefore don’t have access to coaching staff and a medical team to monitor your training), it can be helpful to know the current guidelines on returning to sport after COVID-19 infection.
As I’m sure we’re all aware – COVID-19 (“Corona virus”) is a relatively new virus. And with emerging variants, and more of the population being vaccinated, guidelines on how to return to training have changed a lot since 2020.
Older guidelines suggested a slower return to sport.
Several of the 2020 research papers and position standpoints suggested waiting 14 days post-infection, or from 7-14 days after symptoms ended to begin exercise (some even suggested waiting up to 4 weeks).
But the guidelines have changed.
With both widespread availability of vaccines, and the circulation of less deadly strains of COVID-19, the approach is no longer quite as conservative.
A June 2022 paper by Hughes et al. suggests:
Significant symptoms require rest.
Cough, fever, muscle aches, fatigue, shortness of breath & a fast heart rate all indicate total rest from exercise (& as much rest as possible).
Once symptoms clear, or if you only have only mild symptoms (mild sore throat, mild runny nose) light exercise can resume…
Stage 1: Light Exercise
Start light exercise – approx 50% intensity of your normal pre-COVID training. Aim for 15-30 mins duration. Do this for 3 days. If that goes well – progress to the next stage.
If you struggle to tolerate the exercise, stop training for 48 hours. Rest, then try again.
Stage 2: Moderate Exercise
Attempt “moderate” exercise – about 75% intensity of your normal pre-COVID training. Aim for a minimum of 30 mins duration. Do this for 3 days.
If that goes well – progress to the next stage. If you struggle to tolerate the exercise, stop training for 48 hours. Rest, then try again.
Stage 3: Return to Normal Activity
If you’ve responded well so far, you can resume your normal pre-COVID exercise routine.
As before – if you struggle to now tolerate the training, you are recommended to rest and then try again with light exercise.
If you have not improved to “symptomless” or “mild symptoms” after 14 days, assessment by a medical practitioner is recommended.
To Sum Up:
If you tolerate these stages well, current guidelines suggest you can potentially return to full activity only 7 days after symptoms end (or become “mild”).
Graded return to sport is still recommended to detect any potential complications of COVID-19.
Keep in mind: If you’re a pro athlete, these guidelines may be adjusted, because you can train under the guidance of your coaching and medical team.
Drop me a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer!