Trailside Medicine: Exercise and COVID

Many athletes are inclined to push through injury or illness, believing that it can’t hurt. However, you should understand that

COVID-19 illness brings unique risks. There is wide variability in the symptoms that each patient may experience, and there may be involvement of more organs in your body than realized. When someone has COVID, it is recommended to avoid exercise. You read that correctly: do NOT exercise if you have COVID. Studies have shown that a surprising number of COVID patients experience injury to the heart muscle, and some patients don't even feel it. If this progresses to inflammation, called myocarditis, there is risk of heart failure or even death. Patients with myocarditis are asked to refrain from exercise for multiple months. Following COVID, an otherwise healthy individual who had only mild disease can gradually resume exercise 7-10 days after they are feeling better. Some organizations recommend a medical evaluation before returning to sports, and this becomes especially important if someone has underlying medical issues or experienced severe COVID illness. Symptoms such as chest pain, breathing difficulty, excessive fatigue, or decreased exercise tolerance warrant further testing. In conclusion, it is important to understand that COVID infection is associated with health risks beyond what your body might feel. It is recommended to avoid exercise while sick and for an additional week afterwards. The return to physical activity should be in a gradual and mindful manner.

Dr Jesse Coenen lives in Duluth to take advantage of the awesome natural areas and trail access. He practices family medicine and sports medicine.

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