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With the rising case numbers, returning to exercise post-COVID is becoming an increasing concern for many of us. Ongoing effects of the virus can make being physically active challenging, which may even begin to take a toll on your mental health.

Firstly, we would encourage you to let go of the guilt of missing workouts. Pushing yourself too hard, too soon may actually be detrimental to your long term recovery. Rest and recovery should be your first priority; listen to your body and take it slow. 

It’s recommended that symptoms should have completely subsided for at least 7 days before commencing a gradual return to exercise. A 5-phase approach has been established for people who experienced “mild symptoms”. It is suggested that individuals should spend at least 1 week at each phase prior to progressing.

Each phase is accompanied by a suggested intensity level, which we measure by using your rating of perceived exertion (RPE). This is just a handy way to gauge and track how hard you feel as though you’re working during exercise. The scale we are using is pictured below for reference.

Before you get started, only exercise if you feel recovered from your previous day, and there are no new/return of symptoms. Spending a few minutes warming up for and cooling down from exercise is also strongly recommended. 

Phase 1: Preparation

  • Exercises: Stretching, breathing exercises, flexibility, balance and gentle walking
  • Intensity: Extremely Light (RPE: 6-8)

Phase 2: Low intensity phase

  • Exercises: walking, light yoga, light household tasks, gentle gardening. Increase by 10-15mins per day
  • Intensity: Extremely light-light (RPE: 6-11)
  • Progress after a minimum of 7 days and when able to walk for 30 mins at RPE 11

Phase 3: Moderate aerobic exercise and strength 

  • Exercises: Increased intensity of aerobic activity, moderate intensity interval training could be incorporated
  • Intensity: Somewhat hard (RPE: 12-14)
  • Progress after a minimum of 7 days and when able to achieve 30 mins and feel recovered after 1hr

Phase 4: Moderate intensity + coordination and functioning skills

  • A training ratio of 2 days of training (as in phase 3), to 1 day of recovery
  • Intensity: Somewhat hard (RPE: 12-14)
  • Progress after a minimum of 7 days and when fatigue levels are normal 

Phase 5: Back to baseline

  • Return to regular exercise

Whilst it is helpful to have guidelines like the above, remember the approach should be individualised. These guidelines were also based on previous strains of COVID-19, and as such may not be completely transferrable to current strains (i.e. Omicron). So to reiterate, listen to your body and if you have any concerns, seek further assessment and advice. 

If you experienced severe illness requiring hospital treatment, chest pain, palpitations, severe breathlessness, dizziness whilst infected, it is suggested that you seek further assessment before you start. 

We’re always here and would love to help if you’re feeling uncertain, so feel free to book an appointment in clinic if you need extra assistance and guidance. 


Salman, D, Vishnubala, D, Le Feuvre, P, Beaney, T, Korgaonkar J, Majeed A & McGregor, A 2021, ‘Returning to physical activity after covid-19’, The British Medical Journal, vol. 372, pp. 4721.