Can You Work Out When You Have COVID-19?
If you've been keeping up with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)'s advice, then you know that it currently recommends isolating for at least five days if you test positive for COVID-19. On day five, if you test negative for COVID-19, it's okay to leave your house, according to the latest guidelines. (Otherwise, you're in for five more days of isolation.)
Of course, how to occupy your time during isolation is up for interpretation. If you've tested positive but not experiencing symptoms, you may be tempted to work out or keep up with your typical schedule as much as possible. Don't roll out your yoga mat just yet — here's what you should know about the safety of tackling a workout with COVID-19.
Should you work out with COVID-19?
While the obvious route during any illness is to take a break from workouts, maybe you crave regular movement and want to know if it's absolutely necessary to refrain from exercise. The hard truth is that you should avoid exercise if you have COVID-19, says Rami Hashish, D.P.T., Ph.D. The amount of time you should refrain from working out will depend on your personal medical history and the amount of symptoms you're experiencing, he says. Before you work out with COVID-19, you should reach out to your doctor who will know your personal medical history and can give you personalized advice. (Related: Can You Work Out After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?)
However, there is some general advice you can abide by. If you're experiencing symptoms and are at low risk without comorbidities, you should rest for at least 10 days, says Hashish. "However, the amount of rest will be highly dependent on the severity of your symptoms, as well as general health and physical fitness levels," he emphasizes.
If you've tested positive but are not experiencing symptoms, seven days should be a sufficient amount of time to take it easy before returning to your normal routine, says Hashish. "When returning to exercise, it's advised that you don't just jump right into it, but rather start at approximately 50 percent of normal exercise intensity and volume," he adds. (Related: The Best Way to Start Exercising Again After Being Sick)
Granted, you don't have to lie in bed throughout the entire seven days if you don't want to. "If you're asymptomatic, it's generally considered okay if you do chores around the house and some light walking," says Hashish. A good rule of thumb is to avoid "anything taxing that could result in any amount of fatigue or chest pain," he says.
What are the risks of trying to work out with COVID-19?
As tempted as you may be to work out when you have COVID-19, doing so can end up being counterproductive. "If you exercise while you have COVID, or exercise too soon or too hard after recovering, it could cause not only serious complications, but potential relapses, and delay the amount of time it takes to return back to your normal fitness level," explains Hashish. "Also, because you may be a bit deconditioned, if you do exercise, you may be more likely to sustain an injury." (Related: Now Isn't the Time to Feel Guilty About Your Workout Routine)
Moral of the story, if you contract COVID-19, you want to make sure to treat your body accordingly, even if you're not experiencing symptoms. Your workout routine won't be ruined if you take a few days off, so plan on taking a few rest days and easing yourself back into exercise.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.