How long should you wait?

Full performance has not returned yet: Anyone who has had Corona wonders how they can start training again. Two sports doctors give advice.


the essentials in brief

  • After a corona infection, you have to slowly return to training.
  • Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you should wait three to seven days after infection.
  • The initial workload should be around 50 percent of the usual training.

Two lines on the quick test: boom, the two jogging rounds a week are gone for now. But how do you get back to training once the symptoms of the corona infection have subsided and the test is negative again?

The fact is that if you expect too much from your body too quickly, there is a risk of cardiac arrhythmias, or inflammation of the heart muscle. So caution counts. Two sports doctors reveal how that can be.

Why is it so important not to return to exercise too soon?

You should first take a look at the theory: “A corona infection has two peaks,” says Professor Martin Halle, an expert in preventive sports medicine and sports cardiology.

The virus enters the body and causes a defensive reaction of the immune system – the first spike. A second phase follows around seven days later. Then experts talk about an “immune overreaction.” Inflammation values, which can be measured in the blood, rise again.

Behind this are inflammatory processes that take place in the separation layer between blood and vessels, also in the lungs, in the heart, in other muscles.

The problem: “At this point, the test can also be negative again,” says Martin Halle. “If you train at these high levels of inflammation, it’s unfavorable.”

However, he has good news for all those with sufficient vaccine protection: “The second phase is much weaker in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people.”

And another reason why you should not return to the running track or CrossFit course too soon: “There may still be sources of infection, whereby the disease can reappear due to excessive stress,” says Prof. Bernd Wolfarth, a sports doctor

By the way, this applies not only to an infection with Covid-19, but also to other infections such as influenza.

When can I start again?

Martin Halle gives the following rules of thumb: If you have had no or only mild symptoms, you should allow three symptom-free days to pass before beginning your first light training session.

For somewhat stronger symptoms such as cough or fever, he advises waiting seven days without symptoms.

What if the infection really knocked you out and your lungs or heart were affected as well? Then it is best that a doctor clarify how and when the sport will continue.

How exactly do I deal with re-entry?

“Safety first” is the advice of Bernd Wolfarth. “The more inexperienced the athletes are, the more careful they have to be.”

This is only possible if you put your body’s signals before your training plan. “First you have to feel it again: how efficient is the body now?” says Bernd Wolfarth.

Not being able to pick up where you left off before the positive test is normal. “You lose much more performance from an infection than if you were on vacation at the beach during this time,” says Martin Halle.

The sports doctor has a general rule of thumb ready: start with 50 percent of the workload you stopped with before the infection. “If I’ve run ten kilometers before, I’ll start with five kilometers.”

What sports are especially suitable?

“The best sports are those that are easy to control in terms of intensity and duration,” advises Bernd Wolfarth.

Means: Spin class, which is designed for 60 minutes, is less suitable. A unit on the ergometer is best, where you can start with about 20 minutes of easy cycling.

By the way: sports that do not put as much pressure on the cardiovascular system are more suitable for doing it again. It could be yoga or Pilates class, or strength training at the gym.

How do I know I’m assuming too much?

The advantage here is for those who follow their heart rate with a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and can compare the measured values ​​with those from before infection. “If you need a higher heart rate for the same intensity, that’s a sign,” says Halle.

Other warning signs are chest tightness, dizziness, or an unsteady pulse—”an extra beat that you can really feel,” as Halle describes it.

All of these can indicate inflammation of the heart muscle, reason enough to have it checked out by a doctor.

“It’s also best to clear up shortness of breath, which occurs with even very little effort,” Wolfarth advises. By the way, this also applies if shortness of breath only occurs after exercise or a pronounced dry cough.

More about the subject:

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