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Long COVID and Recovering from COVID-19

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Treatment for Long COVID and COVID-19 Recovery in Chicago Lakeview, the Loop and Glenview

The pandemic hasn't ended for the nearly 1 in 5 adults who have had COVID-19 and continue to experience what has been termed "long COVID". When returning to physical activity or exercise after illness, listen to your body and consult with your doctor or physical therapist.

If you were inactive before COVID-19, you should begin with light physical activity, such as slow and short, but frequent, walks. If you regularly engaged in moderate physical activity before COVID-19, you may to that level of exercise as soon as you feel able. However, progress to higher intensity exercise more slowly than might seem natural and monitor your response to symptoms.  Powering through is discouraged following COVID-19;  only increase exercise duration and intensity if the preivious workout was well-tolerated. Extreme fatigue after exercise is a reason to contact your physician.  Additionally, you should stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

    • Chest pain
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Cold sweat
    • Rapid heart rate or palpitations
    • Dizziness

For returning to physical activity after a typical case of COVID-19:

  • Days 1-7:  Move, Even a Little

    Take things slowly.  In the early days, a walk to the bathroom may be as much as you can handle and you may need a rest break after a flight of stairs.  Move as many times during the day as you can tolerate, even if you only rise from sitting to standing several times in a row.  Stretch your arStart ms overhead and take deep breaths.

  • After 7 Days:  Take a Walk

    Start with a walk around the house initially and progress to 5, 10, and 15 minut walks. The pace should not be so fast that you cannot maintain a conversation. Once you tolerate walking, you may be ready to resume other activities. Plan to start at a slower pace, around 50% of your previous capacity for up to 15 minutes.  You can then initiate interval training with a faster pace for 1 minute before returning to the slower pace froa another 5 to 10 minutes.  When you can do these intervals for 30 minutes or more, you are ready to progress.

    At this phase of recovery, you may be ready for a higher intensity level. Ease back into more intense physical activity by slowly increasing the duration each day or week.

  • After 30 days:  See your Doctor or Physical or Occupational Therapist
  • If you still have difficulty returning to your prior exercise level after 30 days, schedule an appointment with your doctor or physical or occupational therapist who can assist you with:

    • Pacing strategies
    • Appropriate energuy conservation
    • Addressing breathing pattern disorders 
    • Progressing exercise intensity safely

  • COVID-19 can damage the lungs, heart, and brain. Even people who had a mild case of COVID-19 can experience long COVID with symptoms including:

    • Extreme fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Racing heart
    • Dizziness
    • Muscle aches and pains
    • Brain fog
    • Problems completing everyday activities
    • Poor exercise tolerance
    • Chest wall or ribcage pain
  • Your physical therapist and occupational therapist can design a treatment plan to address your specific concerns and limitations. A study of COVID-19 survivors demonstrated that those who participated in a 6-week rehabilitation program showed improvements in lung function, functional capacity, and quality of life relative to a control group.

Please call (773) 665-9950 for more information or schedule an onsite or virtual appointment.


Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Rehabilitation considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Washington, DC: PAHO; 2020. [2021 Feb. 17]. Available from: []

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