Exercising With Covid-19 Could Worsen Its Long-Term Effects, Study Says
The stress of working out adds to the stress the virus puts on your heart
Exercisers often push through pain when it comes to minor injuries or colds, but working out with even mild Covid-19 is looking to be a bad move.
According to a study published in JAMA Cardiology, Covid-19 patients are at risk for heart problems. When researchers performed cardiac MRI testing on 100 adults two to three months after Covid-19 recovery, 78 had structural changes to their hearts, and 60 had myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle that can lead to abnormal heartbeat, heart failure, and sudden death.
Those are serious issues, yet no participant had “serious” Covid-19 cases. Half experienced mild to moderate symptoms, 18% were asymptomatic, and none experienced heart-related symptoms.
What does this have to do with exercise? “Stressing the heart can worsen heart inflammation — and such stress occurs with exercise,” says Richard Wright, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California (unaffiliated with the study). “Covid-19 victims should be rigorously tested to ensure their heart is normal prior to resuming exercise.”
Study author Valentina Puntmann, MD, PhD, recommends Covid-19 patients undergo a cardiac MRI to investigate potential cardiac inflammation. “Until we know more, our advice to our nonprofessional athletes is to take it easy for a minimum of six months,” she says.
Easy doesn’t mean nothing; exercise is still an excellent way to stay healthy. In fact, regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of death in Covid-19 patients, per research in Redox Biology. Talk to your doctor before restarting workouts, and maybe opt for lower-intensity exercise like gentle cycling, yoga, or just walking.