16:57 PM

Taking a Time Out: Exercise After COVID-19


If you work out regularly, you know your body’s limits. You know how far you can run when you’re tired. You know how many push-ups it takes to make your arms ache. But knowing your limits when it comes to COVID-19 isn’t as easy. It’s critical to take proper steps to return to physical activity safely after recovering from COVID-19.

In rare cases of COVID-19, people develop heart complications such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Myocarditis is a significant health risk that can result in heart dysfunction, arrhythmias and even death. The American College of Cardiology currently recommends that some athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19 undergo a cardiology evaluation prior to returning to practice or play. Your office visit and any needed cardiac diagnostic testing should occur at least 10 days after symptom onset. Symptoms of myocarditis include:

  • Chest pain

  • Rapid or abnormal heart rhythms

  • Shortness of breath at rest or during physical activity

  • Passing out spells or feeling as though you may pass out

  • Fatigue

Don’t exercise while sick

If you have myocarditis, the risk for a life-threatening heart rhythm abnormality is increased with exercise. That’s why it’s critical to abstain from physical activity if you have symptoms of illness, including:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion

  • Headache

  • Muscle and joint pain

  • Chills

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Loss of sense of smell or taste

Get an evaluation

Lehigh Valley Heart Institute will try to get the answers you need the same day as your appointment, including your troponin level and echocardiogram reading. The need for further testing will be determined at the office visit.

Your care team also will help you determine when it is safe to begin a graduated return to your normal routine based on your medical history, symptoms, severity of illness, previous level of activity and cardiac testing.

To schedule a sports cardiology evaluation, call 888-402-LVHN.

Note: Clinical recommendations regarding exercise, athletes and return-to-play for those affected by COVID-19 may evolve quickly as more data is gathered and clinical recommendations develop further.