Home » Heart Health » Post Covid Fatigue – 5 Tips to beat it slowly and steadily!
Do you feel like you’re in a workout slump post- covid? Your energy levels are not what they were and you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself to exercise like you used to? Post-Covid Fatigue is REAL! And according to studies, you’re definitely not alone!
Covid-19 disrupted our way of life considerably over the last few years. But one of the most significant long term effects of Covid is the way it has changed our approach to health.
During the first few months of the lockdown, stay-at-home orders, closures of parks, gyms, and fitness centres made it difficult for us to continue with our fitness routines.
Data from studies done in early 2020 revealed that physical activity levels dropped dramatically in many countries. This was determined by analysing more than 19 million smartphone-based (ref. link), step-counting measurements taken over 1 year. Another study in 2021, found that people who used to have steady walking, running, and cycling habits before the pandemic, decreased their activity levels considerably.
As we start off 2022, with a new vaccine, a steadily declining number of Covid cases and easing up of restrictions around the world, people are now ready to go back to the way things were.
This may be more challenging than we realise!
Although Covid19 is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs first, studies have shown that it can cause long-lasting effects on our overall health.
Studies show (ref. link) that more than one-third of people affected by Covid could develop signs of Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC). Another study revealed that fatigue and body pain after exercise were the most common symptoms of long covid, even after 7 months of the initial infection, (as shown in the figure below).
Perhaps the most significant complication of the covid19 infection is its ability to directly affect our heart.
Research has shown that the virus does infect and damage cardiomyocytes or heart muscle cells, and interfere with their contraction. The inflammation in heart muscles is called myocarditis and it is known to occur even in patients who only had mild symptoms. 15% of the athletes (ref. link) at a US-based university developed myocarditis after Covid, while another study revealed that 78% of the people evaluated had cardiac involvement when they were infected, and nearly 60% of them still showed ongoing myocardial inflammation.
In addition, other studies showed that the risk of atrial fibrillation, sinus tachycardia, sinus bradycardia, ventricular arrhythmias, and atrial flutters all increased post covid. Data revealed that dysrhythmias were 1.69 times more likely to occur, relative to control groups, even 12 months after an acute Covid-19 infection.
Covid-19 fatigue is common and can persist for a few weeks into your recovery. That being said, if you had COVID-19 and continue to have bothersome symptoms (such as severe fatigue, chest discomfort, or shortness of breath) after the first 2 to 3 weeks, please consult your doctor.
It is common to feel tired and drained after any illness. However, the long term effects of covid are often quite severe. People suffering from post covid fatigue report feeling extremely tired doing otherwise routine activities, and this affects their quality of life and their ability to function normally. Aside from post covid fatigue, patients also complain of brain fog, muscle aches and pains, and headaches, which are also called post-exertional symptoms, appearing when patients are extremely tired.
Fatigue is very common after any viral infection, and usually settles after 2 or 3 weeks. However, some people dealing with post covid fatigue can feel the effects for up to multiple months.
“I think the best advice about exercising after having COVID-19 is to be very careful — this is a challenging disease. No matter your age or your fitness level, it’s a good idea to discuss any physical activity plans with your doctor and proceed with caution.” – Dr Michael Fredericson, MD, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation in the department of orthopaedic surgery at Stanford Medicine in Palo Alto, California.
“COVID rarely kills young people who are fit, but COVID can cause myocarditis. The risk of myocarditis with COVID is around 1 in 300. A diagnosis of myocarditis means compulsory rest from intensive exercise for at least 6 to 12 weeks.” – Prof. Sanjay Sharma, Professor of cardiology, Sports Cardiologist, St George’s, University of London.
Furthermore, you can monitor your heart rate, using our heart health monitor – The Frontier X2.
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Recovery from COVID-related fatigue depends on how extreme your illness was. After a mild case of COVID-19 your fatigue may go about in 2-3 weeks. But in severe cases, you are likely to feel sluggish and exhausted for months.
Fatigue is a regular part of the body’s reaction to battling a viral infection such as COVID-19. Fatigue is likely to persist for some time after the infection has cleared. While researchers can’t definitively say how long COVID-19 fatigue should last, it is recommended that you see a doctor when you notice symptoms lasting for over a week.
In order to cope with COVID fatigue you can start exercising, talk with someone about your frustrations, engage in productive thoughts, be empathetic with yourself, and find things that impact you positively.
Signs of Post-COVID fatigue are typically the same as the chronic fatigue syndrome that includes physical, psychological, and behavioural complications, including constant tiredness and feeling sleepy.
Given the wide range of symptoms of COVID virus, it is common to feel more than just fatigued after COVID-19. According to WHO, the most common symptoms of COVID are fever, cough, tiredness, and loss of taste or smell.
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