Recovery from COVID-19 Illness

As growing numbers of people recover from COVID-19 illnesses, more patients are discovering that regaining health and stamina may take weeks, even months of recuperation.  Depending on baseline health, age, and underlying conditions, getting back to “normal” after weeks in hospital or in bed at home can take time and a concerted effort to win back strength and endurance.

Older adults may find that regaining their full physical and cognitive function following COVID-19 infection requires daily effort and motivation. It can be frustrating but in order to prevent permanent loss of mobility or independent living, it’s important to set small goals each day at keep at prescribed exercises and activities.

According to a recent AARP Health Report, most older adults recovering from the novel coronavirus should anticipate requiring rehabilitation either at home or in a care facility to recover muscle strength, range of motion, balance, and cardiorespiratory stamina.  Recovered COVID-19 patients will need to start with breathing exercises first to strengthen the muscles used to breathe deeply.  

A journal may be helpful to track gradual increases in physical activity after recovered patients are fever-free and experience no shortness of breath or swelling of the legs for at least a week.  Start out slowly with walks or short 10-minute sessions on a stationary bike. Gradually increase the time and pace.  

Patients who have recovered physically from COVID-19 may also experience lingering brain fog or post-intensive care syndrome if they have been in critical care.  As people recover, it’s important for patients to expect ups and downs and work closely with health care professionals to address ongoing issues.  COVID-19 recovery can be complex for people who became seriously ill and especially for those with other health issues.  

Learn more about managing COVID-19 recovery at home following a discharge from hospital by following this link to the Montefiore Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.   Always talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you have cardiovascular or lung disease or other serious illness.