Can you exercise with Covid? If you’re testing positive for the virus and really feeling it then a workout will likely be the furthest thing from your mind. But with 1 in 3 people contracting coronavirus without symptoms, many are wondering if it’s safe to work out while recovering.
Of course we know by now that if you test positive for coronavirus, you must self-isolate at home. This is regardless of whether you’ve been fully vaccinated (including the Covid booster jab) or you’ve tested positive within the last six months. If you go out, you’re more than likely to pass the virus onto others – even if you’re asymptomatic. And with the new, possibly-more-transmissable Omicron variant on the scene, this advice is more important than ever.
But a home workout, complete with all your own the fitness equipment – probably purchased during one of three previous lockdowns – may still be allowed according to doctors.
Can you exercise with Covid?
While there is nothing to stop you working out at home with Covid-19, GP Dr Giuseppe Aragona says it’s not advisable.
“It is physically possible to partake in exercise with Covid and there is minimal risk with this. Some people may be asymptomatic and not affected at all. However, they should remain aware that this is a virus that does attack the respiratory system. Doing exercise could potentially leave you feeling out of breath or feeling tired much quicker than usual,” Dr Giuseppe, a general practitioner and online doctor for PrescriptionDoctor.com, told GoodtoKnow.
“You may also find that you cannot do the level of exercise that you usually do.”
Dr Giuseppe also emphasises the importance of rest – even if you’re feeling fine after testing positive for the virus. “Ultimately everyone will experience Covid differently. However, Covid attacks the same areas of the body and so even if you’re fighting fit with zero symptoms, chances are doing exercise will cause you to feel tired and worse than when you started. Your body really needs rest as it is trying to fight this illness.”
Tips for exercising with Covid
If you do want to try exercising while at home and isolating, our expert advises taking it slow and – most importantly – listening to your body:
“It is completely up to you whether you partake in exercise whilst having Covid. You know your body. You will be able to tell how bad your symptoms are and how you feel. It is probably advised to not to do any high impact, strenuous exercise. This could actually have adverse effects and you may end up feeling worse than when you started.”
“I would recommend that you postpone exercise if you are experiencing “below the neck” symptoms such as a cough, an upset stomach, chest congestion or breathing issues. Covid is a respiratory illness. Even if you feel fine, doing exercise could affect your breathing as you are still Covid positive,” he says.
“A fever is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. It’s super important to listen to your body. If you are suffering with a fever or some more of the major symptoms of Covid such as fatigue, body aches or breathlessness, then it’s best to rest for a few days until symptoms subside. Then you can ease back into slow impact exercise.”
So while a HIIT workout is off the table for the time being, a gentle session on an exercise bike or yoga in the living room is absolutely fine.
Why are people exercising with Covid?
People choose to exercise while they’re self-isolating with Covid-19 for a number of reasons, including the benefits that it has for our mental and physical health.
During lockdown, when we were stuck inside for so many hours, many people chose home workouts a way to kill time during the day and somewhat keep to their normal routine. Research from June 2020 found that 58% of those who didn’t do much exercise pre-pandemic were working out more during this time, with 36% of people who exercised a lot pre-pandemic also working out more. While 41% of people reported exercising just as much as they were before the lockdown, even with the lack of access to gyms and other sporting activities.
Lee Chambers, environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, says that the desire to keep exercising is completely normal – especially during a pandemic. “Exercise is one of the best ways to keep us healthy. Even if we test positive for Covid, there are a number of reasons we may still look to continue exercising.
“Firstly, exercise is a choice. Individuals who value training put a high weight on the freedom to do so, especially when we have restrictions on what we can to do.”
“Secondly, if we are asymptomatic, we are likely to continue with our routine. [We’ll] be less concerned about exercise being an issue to our health. There is also the anxiety of wanting to return to exercise. Exercise can boost our immunity, making it appealing to recover more rapidly.”
What can you do instead?
But Dr Aragona’s warning in mind, Lee says there are also other things you can do instead of exercising.
“Look at working on flexibility and balance. You can utilise the time to research what may be beneficial when you can get back into your routine. Ensure you are consistent with your sleep with a good sleep schedule. Aim to eat well most of the time, and you will get many of the same benefits. And don’t neglect to train your mind. Trying new activities and utilising self-care to ensure you recover and continue to flourish.”
He adds, “As much as exercise is a positive in our lives, it is a stressor on our bodies. The benefits of exercise are numerous. But [if we can] we should look to other activities that boost our mood, stimulate our mind and provide resilience to stress.”
For many people who’ve come to rely on exercise as a way to redevelop a routine post-lockdown, not being able to get out for a gym session or a run may be difficult. But ultimately, whether you’re showing symptoms or not, it’s important to take it easy. Listen to your body when it comes to what you do and don’t want to do during isolation.