I treated my first patient last week who is recovering from COVID. Everything has felt a little strange at the moment, but I believe that in the face of so much uncertainty something that can be useful is educating ourselves on the “if so, then what/how?”. If you do contract COVID, what do you do once you’re feeling better?

Evidence is still evolving, but studies are suggesting a breakdown of your recovery into 4 phases; and they key is to take things slow. It’s recommended staying at each phase for at least a week.

First things first. Are you ready to return to exercise? Be honest with yourself. If you’re reading this, chances are that you ARE ready, but it’s not recommended that you begin any exercise until you are at least 7 days without any symptoms. Even after you’ve started exercising, if you experience a return of any of the following symptoms, stop and seek medical attention: cough, abnormal breathlessness, palpitation, fever and anosmia (loss of sense of smell). You can start back again when you are once again, 7 days symptom-free.

Phase 1: Easy, breezy

  • Gentle stretching and breathing exercises ONLY
  • This should feel like little to no effort
  • The goal of this phase is to think about and plan your return to exercise

Phase 2: Motion is lotion

  • Activities such as walking, light yoga, household tasks and light gardening is recommended
  • These activities on a self-rated scale should feel “very very light” to “fairly light”
  • You can increase your activity by 5-10 minutes per day as long as it remains in the above range

Phase 3: Ramping it up

  • Begin with 2x 5min blocks of activity such as brisk walking, up and down stairs, jogging, swimming or cycling – and ALWAYS separate these with blocks of recovery
  • You should NOT feel like this exercise is hard

Phase 4: Ah, push it…push push it real good!

  • Begin to challenge your balance, coordination, and strength, such as running with changes of direction, sidesteps and shuffles
  • The end of this phase signals the beginning of returning to your ‘baseline’


  • Each of these phases is designed for you to stay in for at least a week or more
  • Things to watch out for:
    • Are you able to feel recovered after an hour of exercise?
    • The next day, do you experience abnormal breathlessness, abnormal heart rate, excessive fatigue or lethargy, or mentally well?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, step back to an earlier phase.

Has this been helpful?

For those who like a flow chart…

All the information in this blog post has been appropriated from this study:

Salman D, Vishnubala D, Le Feuvre P, Beaney T, Korgaonkar J, Majeed A et al. Returning to physical activity after covid-19 BMJ 2021; 372 :m4721 doi:10.1136/bmj.m4721

As you can appreciate, this information is general in nature and should not be substituted from tailored medical advice from a medial professional.

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