COVID-19 and Exercise

This page provides detailed information for UO students on exercise while sick with or recovering from COVID-19. Be sure to also check out our general information on COVID-19 self-care and isolation.

Should I exercise while I have COVID-19?

During the time you’re sick or in isolation with a positive test, it’s best to avoid heavy exercise. Gentle stretching, foam rolling, or low intensity yoga are OK. There is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can cause inflammation in the heart muscle and increase the risk of blood clots. These are rare but potentially dangerous complications. You should monitor yourself for symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, palpitations, or swelling/discoloration in hands and feet.  

How should I return to exercise once I’m feeling better from a COVID-19 infection?

  • Return-to-exercise guidelines post-COVID-19 need to consider:
    • Individual's duration and severity of symptoms
    • The presence of co-existing medical conditions
    • Pre-infection fitness
    • The intensity of intended post-infection exercise
  • Return to exercise should aim to minimize the development of non-COVID-19 related complications (e.g., musculoskeletal injuries) that may occur following a period of relative inactivity.
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions (especially pulmonary or cardiac problems), you should adopt a more cautious approach to return to exercise and consult with your medical provider for a customized plan.
  • Return to exercise after COVID-19 infection should happen in a graduated fashion, over at a minimum seven days. (Note: If you are involved in UO Club Sports or UO Athletics, speak with your trainer, coach, and medical provider for specific return to sport guidelines!)
    • Day 1: You should attempt 15 to 30 minutes of exercise at about 50 percent of the intensity that they were used to prior to infection.
    • Days 2 and 3: If this is well-tolerated, the same should be repeated for the subsequent two days.
    • Day 4: If well tolerated, exercise intensity can then be increased to about 75 percent of the intensity that the individual was used to prior to infection. The duration can also be increased to 30 or more minutes.
    • Days 5 and 6: If well tolerated, this again should be repeated on the two subsequent days.
    • Day 7: If no adverse response to attempted exercise, you could consider resumption of normal pre-COVID-19 exercise habits.
  • Any unusual exercise intolerance should trigger a pause for 24–48 hours, before resuming a graded increase in activity. Persistent exercise intolerance warrants medical review.
  • If by 30 days post-infection, you are having persistent difficulty with attempted return to pre-infection exercise levels, then review by a medical practitioner is advised.
  • Myocarditis and other cardiac conditions related to COVID-19 are rare, but you should seek immediate medical attention if any cardiac symptoms such as pressure, tightness, squeezing pain in chest, arms, neck jaw or back, cold sweat, difficulty breathing, collapse or sudden dizziness, occur during exercise or at rest.

More information is available on the CDC website.

Resources: Hughes DC, Orchard JW, Partridge EM, La Gerche A, Broderick C. Return to exercise post-COVID-19 infection: A pragmatic approach in mid-2022. J Sci Med Sport. 2022 Jul;25(7):544-547. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2022.06.001. Epub 2022 Jun 7. PMID: 35725689; PMCID: PMC9170595.