Post-Covid workout regime: Slow and realistic wins the race!
If you have recently defeated Covid-19 and are gearing up to get back to the gym grind, experts suggest to start slow, set small targets and be mindful of your bodily movements.
There has been a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases worldwide, including India. However, severe bouts of illness and hospitalisation are few and far between. “This time, the predominant symptoms are headache, fever, muscle aches, sore throat, runny or blocked nose. As compared to previous strains of the virus, the symptoms are mild to moderate and last mostly for three days. People are recovering at home itself, without the need for hospital or ICU intervention. However, fatigue has become a post-Covid symptom,” informs Dr (Col) Vijay Dutta, senior consultant, Internal Medicine at Delhi’s Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.
In such a situation, putting one’s body through stress in the form of a workout may not be the best idea. However, not exercising at all is not healthy either, say experts, for exercise works as fuel for the mind, body and soul.
Slow and steady
The key is to start slow and set small targets, rather than embrace your pre-Covid routine right away. “Someone who has just recovered should avoid exercising for the first one week. After that, start exercising gradually with a lower intensity (50% of the pre-disease level) and then build up the intensity very gradually,” says Dr Sushila Kataria, senior director, Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital.
However, the duration or intensity of exercise cannot be decided based on a one-size-fits-all approach. “It depends on what level of activity a person was doing earlier, as well as their immune level and severity of infection. You should also focus on getting the right nutrition and aiding your body’s recovery process. Remember, it is not about increasing the intensity; setting small targets and having the right mindset will allow you to do more day by day,” says Meenakshi Mohanty, a fitness expert.
Exercises to get you going
It is important to mobilise the body as soon as you’re ready to get going, believes Vesna Jacob, a Pilates and holistic wellness guru. She shares a simple way to understand if your body is up for a workout: “While climbing one flight of stairs, if you take a break or you feel you are out of breath, you are not ready for high-intensity workouts.” She also points out that exercising does not necessarily mean “15 jumping jacks and 40 Surya Namaskars”. “Even washing windows is exercise! Start with gentle movements that don’t elevate the heart rate drastically, but help speed up recovery. Everything else can wait until four to six weeks after recovery. Knee bends, pelvic tilts, pelvic bridge, arm circles, some basic lifting with a water bottle, knee to chest extensions can be done to get you going. Reps can vary, and duration can be from 10-30 minutes, depending on how comfortable the body is,” adds Jacob.
When resuming from where you left off, giving yourself enough rest is also crucial. “The major symptoms we are noticing in the current Covid-19 flare up are headache, letharginess and weakness in legs (70-80%). After recovering, stretching exercises can be resumed. Cardio and weight training should be completely avoided at least for two weeks. We must understand that to heal from Covid-19, taking proper rest is paramount,” notes Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, director and unit head, Pulmonology at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.
Binge-watching TV is not recovery
Fitness coach Sohrab Khushrushahi, founder of Sohfit, believes recovery is as important as working out, if not more, provided it is done right: “The one mistake people make is to not move at all. Binge-watching TV is not recovery, neither is just taking the day off from workout. It’s about the food you eat that day, how much sleep you get, water intake and so much more. Also, carbs are not the enemy, don’t skip. It is the fuel you need to work out. Just monitor the kind of carbs you eat and how much.” He also emphasises on the need to listen to our bodies: “Be in the moment; don’t do any exercise for the sake of it. Trying to do things too fast will do more damage than good.”
Doctors sometimes tend to caution us about resuming workout. But, this should not turn into fear, asserts Jacob. “Caution is about observing your bodily changes and knowing how to balance things out. Operating from the space of fear will not get you anywhere. This attitude of ‘I don’t want to mess up anything so I won’t do anything’ is not good,” she adds.
You are what you eat. Hence, food must not be neglected. “Your diet should be rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods that will not only help you recover, but also reduce the internal stress caused by the virus. Vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C are the most important during recovery, as they are essential in building immunity. You can get these nutrients from amla, guava, almonds, spinach, cashew nuts, pomegranate and chicken. Also, get good sunlight every day for 20 minutes at least,” says Dr Rohini Patil, a nutritionist. She adds, “Before you go for a workout, you need something with good amount of carbohydrates to give you energy. You could have a smoothie made with bananas, apples, beetroot or berries, coupled with nuts and seeds. After workout, have a protein-rich meal (comprising eggs, chicken), a protein bar or shake with some nuts and almond milk in it, an omelette made with two eggs and veggies, or an egg salad. Don’t skip meals.”
Author tweets @srinidhi_gk