How to Manage Fatigue After COVID-19

“You must be evaluated by a doctor … don’t skip that step.”

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After recovering from COVID-19—a viral infection that primarily targets the respiratory system—it can take some time to feel back to normal. One common symptom people feel after COVID-19 is prolonged fatigue. Learn more about the long-term symptoms of COVID-19.

It’s not clear what causes fatigue to linger after COVID-19. It might stem from the immune response, or because the lungs and heart are still recovering.

“The way to manage fatigue is balancing activity with rest and recovery. So a little activity, more rest and recovery,” says Noah Greenspan, DPT, CCS, EMT-B, clinical specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy. “For some people, the exercise may be breathing alone, because even raising your arm 10 times may be enough to trigger inflammation.”

Exercising After COVID-19

There’s no one-size-fits-all post-COVID-19 exercise program, because COVID-19 affects everyone differently. That’s why, before resuming exercise after COVID-19, it’s very important to check in with your doctor first.

“You must be evaluated by a doctor … don’t skip that step,” says Dr. Greenspan. “If you overdo it [during exercise], my fear is that you're going to set yourself back and could potentially make your symptoms more long term or permanent.”

Once you get the OK from your doctor, make a plan to add exercise back in ... slowly. Learn more about how to resume exercise after COVID-19 here.

Other Fatigue-Fighting Habits

While exercise is an important part of managing fatigue, it’s not the only thing to focus on. Some other good fatigue-fighting habits include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • And managing stress

If fatigue is lingering for months and significantly affecting your life, check in with a doctor. You could be experiencing chronic fatigue, which may benefit from other forms of treatment, such as medications or other forms of therapy. Working with your doctor is the best way to manage your fatigue safely and get you back to feeling like yourself again.