February Nutrition Highlight: Escarole | Pongo Power

Post COVID-19 Exercise: The Whens, Whys and Hows

COVID-19 has barreled through our lives like a tornado and turned our world upside down.

A year after the pandemic swept the United States, comprehensive guidance now exists on how elite athletes can return to sports post-COVID infection. Unfortunately, the same cannot yet be said for the general population. [1]


What is widely known, however, is that exercise provides a vast array of scientifically-proven health benefits such as boosting your mood and immunity, improving your sleep, lowering blood pressure, and so much more.

Recovery Exercise

Recommendations may still be scarce when it comes to helping the “non-athlete population” return to an active and healthy lifestyle after a coronavirus infection. But we can still utilize the resources available to us to set ourselves up for success once the virus has left our bodies.

The CDC reports that 35% of non-hospitalized COVID-positive patients are not back to their original state of health two to three weeks after infection [2]. Meanwhile, a whopping 88% of hospitalized patients experience "long COVID," presenting at least one long-term post-COVID symptom [3]. Reported lingering symptoms include cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, joint and chest pain, brain fog, and heart palpitations, among others.

Because there is no predictable course of this illness, anyone who has experienced it must take extra caution when returning to exercise. The best course of action for you may be to request medical clearance from your doctor.

With that in mind, your safety is always our number one concern!

Whether you're a returning client coming back to train with us on Zoom or in person at our 5th Street studio, or if you're a prospective client signing up for our free fitness assessment, you are required to complete a confidential health history questionnaire.

COVID-19 Exercise

We use these answers in conjunction with observations we make during your fitness assessment to craft a custom program that fits your current health and fitness status, NOT your pre-coronavirus fitness level.

In other words, we're assessing a starting point for your ongoing health and fitness journey.

Then, once you're safely training with us- again, or for the first time- we continue to monitor you and adjust your workout program based on your daily form and overall recovery process. 


Regarding COVID, the well-documented benefits of exercise can certainly aid recovery.  For instance, exercise allows for greater amounts of oxygen to flow through the bloodstream- notable when it comes to a respiratory illness like coronavirus that is known to impair blood oxygen levels.

Exercise is also incredibly beneficial for improving lung capacity, which can be vitally important to one's full recovery from COVID-19. Employing specific breathing techniques and strategic cardio workouts will promote lung capacity improvement.

Recovery Exercise

A Personal Experience

I dealt with a mild bout of COVID in late March of 2020. The fatigue was quite overwhelming, and it lasted long after other symptoms subsided. Even now, over a year later, there are moments when I am still just plain exhausted and unfocused. I'm not entirely sure whether this is just a general state of flux attributed to the upheaval of our lives, or whether it's a lingering effect of my infection.   

My journey back to exercise was a safe one. After having stayed in touch with my doctor during and after my illness, I got my final sign-off in August. We at Pongo Power always place an emphasis on proper breathing technique, so I first began with breathing exercises. Shortly thereafter, I introduced foam rolling and stretching, and felt so good! Next, I started taking walks- mask on, always. Some of my walks left me short of breath.

During all of it, I paid- and still pay- close attention to my body. Shortness of breath has stayed with me. But I'm happy to report my exercise tolerance has increased again. While it's not where it was pre-COVID, it’s getting better day after day!

In closing, it warrants repeating that every client with or without a history of coronavirus should consult their doctor before starting or returning to an exercise program- especially following a bout of inactivity. Those who have had COVID-19 will need written clearance from their doctor to begin exercising with us, for your own safety and that of our trainers and other clients. We look forward to helping you continue your fitness journey!

  1. Wilson MG, Hull JH, Rogers J, et al. Cardiorespiratory considerations for return-to-play in elite athletes after COVID-19 infection: a practical guide for sport and exercise medicine physicians. British Journal of Sports Medicine  Published Online First: 02 September 2020. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2020-102710
  2. Tenforde M, Kim S, Lindsell C, Billig Rose E, Shapiro N, Files D et al. Symptom Duration and Risk Factors for Delayed Return to Usual Health Among Outpatients with COVID-19 in a Multistate Health Care Systems Network — United States, March–June 2020. 2020. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6930e1
  3. Carfì A, Bernabei R, Landi F, for the Gemelli Against COVID-19 Post-Acute Care Study Group. Persistent Symptoms in Patients After Acute COVID-19. JAMA. 2020;324(6):603–605. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12603

Meet the Author

Karin Meessen


NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Senior Fitness Specialist

Medical Exercise Specialist

PROnatal Certified


Karin has been a long-time health and fitness enthusiast. She knows what it takes to go the distance, having completed two NYC marathons and numerous long-distance, multiple-day road cycling events.

She believes strongly in the connection between mind and body to promote overall well-being. Pairing an emphasis on balance and stability, with development of core strength; Karin helps her clients to improve all areas of their lives, through safe and enjoyable workouts.

“I became a personal trainer to help people create lasting changes in their lives. Seeing a client discover the emotional, mental, and physical strength derived from exercise, is extremely exciting and rewarding.”

If you'd like to train with Karin, you can send her an email:  karin@pongopower.com!

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