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Getting moving again
Getting moving again


A man and woman walking happily together

Why is getting moving again important?

After a period of illness and inactivity, your muscles will be much weaker than normal, and you will be less fit than you were. It is important to get back to your previous level of activity or aim to be more active than you are right now. This will take time and it is important to be patient with yourself. Return to Top

How can I tell if I am ready to get moving again?

If you have recovered from your initial COVID illness and find that each day you are feeling better than the previous day, this is a sign that your body is recovering, and it is time to consider increasing your activity. However, if your symptoms are still variable, and you still have days where you feel much worse again, you should wait until you feel a bit better. It is important to take things slowly and not rush back to your previous level of activity. For some people, this can lead to a setback in recovery. If you think you have long COVID, you may find that just a small increase in activity can make your symptoms worse. If this is the case, it is important to pace your activity. You can find out more by reading the long COVID section and the fatigue section, which includes advice on pacing activity. Return to Top

Why is being active important?

  • Regular activity makes you stronger and fitter – at first you may notice that you are breathless, and your tiredness increases but these are normal responses to activity – these symptoms will reduce as you become stronger and fitter
  • You will feel better in yourself and can do more of the things that are important to you
  • Regular activity will help to minimise pain and stiffness in joints
  • Being active during the day may help you sleep better
  • Over time, regular activity can also help you manage other long-term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes
  • The more time spent being physically active, the greater the health benefits
  • It is likely you will only be able to manage small amounts of activity at the beginning of your recovery
  • Regular physical activity along with eating well can help you recover, build your muscle strength and confidence
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How do I start being active again?

  • Start slowly and build up your level of activity over time
  • Try to do little and often, allow rest between activities and don’t overdo it
  • Reduce sitting time – try standing up every hour and marching on the spot
  • Set yourself small goals you can do in the day – you can start with small tasks such as making a drink or something to eat
  • Aim for a daily walk and make it part of your daily routine to give your day structure
  • Start off with shorter walks around your home or in your garden or walk with someone until you are confident to go out on your own
  • If you have been given a walking aid by your healthcare professional, you can use it to help start being active again
Don’t worry if you need to stop and rest, that’s a normal part of recovery and increasing your strength. For example, you might find doing everyday jobs that you used to do easily tiring. Walking up and down the stairs may make your legs ache and you may be quite short of breath, this is normal.
  • If you have an exercise bike at home, this may be a good alternative to walking, particularly on wet days
  • If you feel unwell after small amounts of activity, you may need to rest, wait for your symptoms to pass and pace yourself more carefully
Find out more about: Return to Top

What should I be aiming for with my activity?

  • Take your time and build up as you feel you can and aim to do a little more each day – remembering to pace yourself
  • Choose a good time of day (when you are not too tired) to be active
  • You may find that you need rest days, especially at the beginning of your recovery
  • You might want to think about times when routes are a little quieter (early morning or evenings)
  • You might choose to do your chosen activity with a relative or friend
  • Wait an hour after eating a meal before you do physical activity and take a drink with you
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Here is an example of how you could begin increasing your physical activity:

  • Start slowly, for example – walk for five minutes without stopping (or less if you feel breathless and tired)
  • Gradually build this up, by 30 – 60 seconds, once the walk begins to feel easier
  • Once you can do 10-minutes without stopping, aim to do two 10-minute walks a day
  • Once you can achieve two 10-minute walks, aim for two 15 minute or three 10-minute walks
  • Gradually progress to a 30-minute walk
This may take several weeks or even months to progress and you should only progress to the next stage when you feel your symptoms are improving. Remember, if an activity makes you feel unwell, you may need to rest, wait for your symptoms to pass and to pace yourself more carefully. Find out more about: Return to Top

How do I know if I’m working at the right level?

  • You should be able speak a sentence when you are exercising
  • If you feel uncomfortable at any point, stop and rest for as long as you need
  • It’s normal to feel a little breathless, warm and sweaty during activity
  • Your muscles may ache afterwards but this should not last for more than a couple of days
  • You may feel more tired afterwards, this is normal but feeling unwell after activity is not and may be a sign you need to take things more slowly
  • It is important to keep doing physical activities to build up your fitness – this will eventually lead to you feeling less tired
  • It may help to record the times that you have done activity so you can see your progress – it is common to have some good days and some bad days but don’t get disheartened by this and instead look at your progress week-on-week
Find out more about: Return to Top

What if I have a bad day?

  • It is normal to have setbacks so don’t give up – there is no reason to feel like you have failed
  • If you feel you are having more bad days than good days, it may be a sign you are doing too much and you may need to reduce the number of, or time spent doing activities – please see the fatigue section for further information
  • Learning from your experiences helps you to set goals that are more realistic and more likely to last – this will help you set activity goals that become part of your daily routines, which you may need to revise in line with your symptoms
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Please read this before starting any physical activities

  • Any activity could lead to risk of physical injury
  • You should feel good when doing the activity
  • If you experience any pain, shortness of breath or dizziness, stop and seek advice
  • Following this activity advice is at your own risk: you are agreeing to undertake these activities voluntarily and as such assume all risk of injury to yourself

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