What Do You Need To Know?
Generally when we cross into a New Year, we envision leaving behind all the unpleasantness of the former year, and focusing on all the positives in the year to come. This year, however, is a bit different. Although we may want to leave 2020 far behind, the reality is that we still have much to face from this past year. Covid-19 changed the world. It changed how we go about our daily lives, and will have lasting effects on our daily routine, in some cases, permanently.
What Effects Are We Really Talking About?
While for many the concept of having Covid-19 is frightening all by itself, the long term effects of the illness are only now becoming known. Some of these include:
Effects on the Heart: Imaging tests are showing lasting heart damage even in people with milder symptoms. This includes blood clots in the capillaries of the heart, which could lead to cardiac events.
Effects on the Lungs: The type of pneumonia associated with Covid-19 can cause long standing damage to the alveoli in the lungs, and can lead to long term breathing problems.
Effects on the Brain: Even in young people, Covid-19 can cause strokes, seizures, and Guillame-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis. It may even lead to an increased risk of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.
In addition to the above, Covid-19 can cause blood clots in the legs, heart, liver and kidneys. It can also cause the blood vessels in the liver and kidneys to leak, leading to further complications. On the mental health side, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and even PTSD. (SARS) has been known to cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in some, and there is the possibility that Covid-19 could do the same.
Is it All That Grim?
It can be a daunting outlook - so what can we do? The vaccines are slowly making their way into the public domain, although they are being met with some skepticism and concern for side effects. To date, the only true accounting has been four cases of allergic reaction, none life threatening. While to some it may seem that the vaccine was rushed, understanding the methodology of vaccine development will do a lot to assist with quelling these fears. A blog post on the site criticascience.org goes a long way to explaining this. As stated in the blog, genomic sequencing is now able to be completed at a much faster rate than in the past. In the case of Covid-19, it was completed in three days back in January of 2020. This information gives scientists the information they need to know their targets in creating the vaccine. In addition, since Covid-19 is within the family of coronaviruses already known to science (SARS, MERS), scientists were already working against the much deadlier forms of it. The research already performed to develop vaccines against SARS and MERS gave the scientific world a head start on Covid-19. Lastly, we have to look at the fact that so many countries all over the world decided to focus on this one vaccine. With that much attention and funding, the research becomes that much faster to complete. This was a GLOBAL issue, and unlike so many other diseases still awaiting vaccines, there was no easy way to deny the significance of being able to fight Covid-19. Besides, who doesn't want to be credited with saving the world? Of course there was a race to find a vaccine. None of that means the vaccines are unsafe. And the test groups so far have not shown them to be either.
In a time that has turned our entire worlds upside down and inside out, one thing that has not changed, even with a health crisis of this magnitude, is that the best healthcare is preventative healthcare. It will be a while until enough people are vaccinated to make any real difference in infection rates. Wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing - we know all the guidelines. But the one that seems to be left out rather consistently, is exercise. Exercise is still the only proven way to boost the immune system. While Covid-19 changed the way we workout, it only increased the need for it. As more and more get and recover from it, we need to address how to workout post Covid. Most people I know who have recovered from it (myself included, although I was sick back in February and so while my symptoms matched, they weren't really testing for it then) still report some health issues as a result. Having trouble breathing properly has been the most common, although reduced energy and lower moods are also at the top of the list from what I've experienced thus far. While I have not encountered anyone who has suffered more severe consequences, when we look at what may lay down the line (blood clots, leaking capillaries, etc) the need for exercise only becomes more apparent. The idea, though, is to do it safely.
Start Slowly - Even seasoned fitness enthusiasts will need to return slowly to exercising after a bout with Covid-19. Your body has been through a lot, and since we don't know for sure what indicators point to long term effects, it may still be fighting off the after effects of the illness.
Pay Attention to What Your Body Tells You - As a general rule, you should always be vigilant about the signals you are getting from your body. This becomes more important after a bout with Covid-19. You may need to take more breaks, or you may find that your muscles aren't loading up the same way they did before. Give it time. But more importantly, LISTEN to what your body is telling you.
Hydrate, Hydrate, HYDRATE - Our bodies are made up of up to 60% water. As a fever heats up the body to fight off infection, we lose a good amount of that water and easily dehydrate. While it's important to hydrate on a regular basis, after a fever it becomes even more so.
Don't Give Up! - As with everything, consistency is key. Don't allow yourself to fall into the trap of non commitment. Even if you have a tougher time doing a workout, take down the intensity to something manageable and TRY TO FINISH. If you must stop, then be sure to give yourself a good cool down and stretch to slow your heart rate properly.
As always, I would recommend working with a personal trainer (not just because I am one!) to ensure your safety and the best possible progression. Exercise increases blood flow and stroke volume, so it helps to fight against blood clots and some of the other long term effects associated with Covid-19.
In addition, it's been proven that people who are in better health to start with tend to have more positive outcomes with Covid-19. This is unfortunately not always the case, but it certainly stands to reason that being as healthy as you can in the first place gives your body a better a chance of fighting off most anything.
The landscape of our world has changed. The landscape of fitness has changed. But the importance of taking care of your health, if it has changed at all, has only made itself more evident.