COVID-19: the sport for combatting the virus

Covid-19: the sport for combatting the virus

Can you prevent COVID-19 through sport? What activity should you do to get back in shape after getting infected? Can you practise sport while you are ill? 
During this period, you've asked yourself these questions as well as some others, possibly.
To help us answer these questions, here is the advice of some health professionals.

To shed some light on the issue of coronavirus and sports, we were lucky enough to talk to the cardiologist and sports doctor,Dr Stéphane Doutreleau, as well as the Adapted Physical Education coaches, Yoann Brunet and Noé Musso. 

Thanks to DECATHLON sports health project run by our teammate, Marie, in Grenoble, we were able to talk with these health professionals.
Thanks to the partnerships with healthcare institutions and professionals, the people of Grenoble are getting the assistance they need to get back into sport so that they can recover from health issues more effectively.

As part of the same process, Dr Doutreleau, Yoann, and Noé give us all their advice for preventing or recovering from COVID-19 through sport.
Happy reading!

Before the illness

COVID-19: the sport for combatting the virus

How can sport prevent covid-19?

Dr Doutreleau: "Regular physical or sporting activity has benefits for the immune system. The more we practise a regular physical/sporting activity, the more weapons we have in our arsenal to avoid catching viral or bacterial infections, or at the very least, cope with them much better."

Dr Doutreleau: "In the case of COVID-19, a recent study showed that those who are better at sports, regardless of their age, were less susceptible to the coronavirus infection.
The study, conducted on almost 50,000 patients, showed that the people who were physically inactive for at least two years before the pandemic were more likely to be hospitalised.
Inactive people suffering from COVID were twice as likely to be hospitalised than the most active group of people. They were also 73% more likely to need intensive care and 2.5 times more likely to die from the infection."

On reading the data produced by Dr Doutreleau, the result is clear. If you want to avoid getting COVID-19 and have less severe symptoms through regular physical activity... well, get moving and have some fun with your favourite physical activity. That is, if you have one! Walking? Fitness? Running? Horseriding? Cycling? Dancing? Judo?

So, if you don't yet know which one, it's never too late to discover a new passion. Oh, alright, here's something to help you out ;) :

During the illness:

COVID-19: the sport for combatting the virus

Should you practise a sport during the illness?

Dr Doutreleau: "This is an important point. During an infection, whether it is viral or bacterial (fever, discomfort, stiffness, et), you should not engage in any sporting activity or intense physical activity. 
While the infection is still present, physical activity of any kind is not recommended. Although some sportsmen and women may try to eliminate certain toxins by engaging in a physical activity during an infection, in reality they are putting themselves at risk

It is therefore better to avoid any sport at these times. You can gradually resume the physical activity once the symptoms have gone."

Happy with that? You know just how sport can be good for you and how it can boost your energy levels, but not during an illness. Summon your patience so that you can start again stronger! ;)

What's more, if you have questions about sport and other health concerns, we've put together an entire file on the subject:

Why is it risky to practise a sports activity while being infected?

Dr Doutreleau: "In general, in the event of a viral syndrome with muscle stiffness, it is very likely that there is also a more or less severe viral infection of the cardiac muscle (= myocarditis).

Sometimes you can feel it (fever, chest pain, etc.) and sometimes you will barely notice it. There may be several clusters in the myocardium that won't disrupt the operation of the heart and won't cause pain, but when stimulated by physical activity, they can cause heart problems and sudden death.

One of the best principles in sport, which we would recommend, is not to practise a sporting activity when you have a viral infection with a fever and your muscles still feel stiff.
A tell-tale sign: if your thighs and legs still hurt, this is a sign that your muscles haven't recovered, which could mean that the heart hasn't recovered either
If ever you have to practise a sport, take care not to push yourself too hard."

COVID-19: the sport for combatting the virus

What sport can you practise during coronavirus, when the symptoms have gone?

Are there any sports that should be avoided?

Dr Doutreleau specifies which activity you should do when this hazardous phase and the stiffness have passed
Dr D: "There aren't really any sports that you should avoid. Everything depends on how hard you push yourself. The cardiovascular system should not be pushed too hard in order to avoid any risk."

And this is really reassuring. You can therefore do an activity that you enjoy, while taking things slowly and gradually. In particular, Dr Doutreleau places a particular emphasis on varying the intensity of effort during the physical activity, e.g. through interval training. You can alternate between walking and running at a moderate pace in order to enjoy the benefits of the sport sooner.

After the illness:

"Long covid": when the symptoms persist

Can sport help you to recover?

Dr Doutreleau tells us that the "long-COVID" effect (fatigue that persists, feeling that each sports session is hard, difficulty recovering, heart beating too quickly, etc.) can even occur after other viral infections. 

And in order to manage these persistent symptoms, sport is the ultimate solution. Indeed, physical activity is quite simply the only treatment available today.

Physical activity will help in the recovery of the muscles, cardiac system, breathing, etc. In short, it will help the rehabilitation of the body. This is backed up by the Regional Health Agency and the Higher Health Authority!

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus

When and how should you return to sport after the illness?

Dr D: " The return to sport must be done gradually! It takes a long time to recover after a viral infection. You have to accept that you are in a transition period and need more time to recover. If you take things too fast, problems will occur and you could develop chronic fatigue. 

You can start by gradually increasing the amount of physical activity you do when you no longer feel any stiffness, after about 7 to 10 days of rest. 

If you find it hard to recover, you may need to structure your recovery, with the help of a suitable adapted physical education coach or rehabilitation centre."

In order to recover properly and make real progress, don't overlook your nutrition and sleep.

Dr D: "You can't rebuild muscle if you don't exercise regularly along with a good protein intake, and good nutrition and hydration. For your well-being, you have to listen to what your body is telling you, take things gradually, schedule periods of recovery and sleep well. Otherwise, you could wear yourself out."

Now it's over to our adapted physical education coaches, yann and noé, to give you their best "post-covid" advice.

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus

What precautions should you take when returning to your physical activity?

Yann: "If you aren't experiencing any problems returning to sport and getting back to your initial level of fitness, you can safely carry on.

If the situation is different or you feel intense or unusual symptoms during exercise, we also recommend having a quick checkup with your GP to take stock of the situation and make the right adjustments to your return to sport.

The doctor can check out the following:
- Arterial blood pressure, weight, etc.
- If necessary, they may conduct an electrocardiogram, listen to the chest and, possibly, prescribe a blood test.
- If needed, they will recommend a cardiovascular checkup with a cardiac stress test."

Noé: “You can review your equipment with a professional. Having a suitable new pair of trainers can reduce the harmful effects on the osteoarticular system, ligaments and muscles, especially if you haven't done any exercise for a while.

Should you feel any shortness of breath or unusual pain when returning to training, we recommend that you contact your GP."

How do you identify the type of exercises you can do according to your physical capabilities after the disease?

Noé: "Assessing one's physical capabilities isn't easy. The most effective way is to carry out a cardiac stress test with a cardiologist, but this isn't mandatory. Otherwise, you will need to exercise according to how your muscles feel and/or your breathing (using what is known as a perceived exertion scale like the Borg scale.)

Choose exercises that you are good at and take it step-by-step in terms of the level of intensity. 

In order to review your capabilities, the best option is to carry out a cardiac stress test with a cardiologist and/or pulmonologist."

What sports would you recommend for your post-covid recovery?

Yann: "There is not necessarily one sport that is more suitable than another: choose an activity that you enjoy and that is not dangerous. You will need to return to your physical activity gradually.
In order to feel the benefits of the physical activity sooner, we recommend interval training, i.e. changes in level of intensity (walking/running/walking/running).

As a guide, here are a few examples of endurance-type activities that you can do depending on your physical capabilities:
- Walking, Nordic walking, hiking
- Swimming
- Jogging, trail running"

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus

What do you recommend in terms of training?

Yann: "As soon as the COVID symptoms disappear, we recommend that you restart your endurance-type exercises gradually. You should restart with a few relaxed steps, without getting too out of breath, so that you can assess the actual effect that COVID has had on your physical condition.

After a few sessions, try increasing your walking pace to the point where you start to get breathless. Then ask yourself the following question: "Could I walk non-stop for 30 minutes while being a little out of breath? "

If the answer is yes:
We recommend doing an endurance-type activity 2-3 times a week while being slightly or even moderately out of breath (walking, hiking, cycling, running and other activities, depending on your capabilities).

"If the answer is no:
You need to break up the level of effort so that you can walk for 30 minutes without feeling too breathless.
- You can do 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes in the afternoon without trying to be out of breath.
- You can do 5-10 min of walking depending on your physical capabilities and 3 min of recovery, and repeat the exercise in order to gradually reach 30 min of walking without trying to be out of breath. 

As soon as you can walk for 30 minutes without stopping, you can do this type of walk 3 to 5 times a week for several weeks. 

Then you can attempt to be slightly out of breath by speeding up your movements a little, after which you can ask yourself the following question again: "Could I walk non-stop for 30 min while being a little out of breath? ""

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus

Is any assistance required?

Noé: "For a mild form of COVID, you don't need any assistance. However, for a severe form of COVID and/or long COVID that has affected the lungs, leading to abnormal breathlessness, we recommend that you seek the supervision of a health professional.

Initially, a doctor will be able to conduct a checkup and suggest the level of assistance that they reckon you need according to your state of health: a re-training programme supervised by physiotherapists for the more severe forms of COVID, which may require supplemental oxygen, or the helps of "adapted physical education" coaches. The programme will be individualised, gradual and, above all, adapted."

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus

Decathlon coach

If you are able to practise your physical activity alone, you can still get support! 

With the Decathlon Coach app, monitor your activity and observe your progress for getting back in shape at your own pace.

The physical activity recommended by the ministry of sports

Naturally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends practising sport daily, but this is all the more important during this time of the COVID pandemic, as recommended by the Minister for Sports in particular.
Check out all the information on the sporting measures in the current context:

Follow the new measures imposed by the government

If you want the latest information on the progress of the health crisis and the government measures, you'll find it here:

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus

Practising sport indoors or outdoors? with or without a surgical mask?

Sport is not only good for the body, but also your mental health. This is really necessary in the health crisis we are facing, which then begs the question of "how?". 

Do you need to wear a surgical mask during physical activities? Should you put it on indoors? Outdoors? Whether you want to make the most of the outdoors or go to the gym, why not check out the answers to these questions thanks to our discussion with an infectiologist.

As you've probably realised, physical activity is crucial and the fact that it helps to keep you healthy is a pretty good excuse, don't you think?
As Dr Doutreleau says: "Sport improves life and helps in the treatment of many pathologies."
So, you can introduce a physical activity into your daily routine and do yourself some good!

Once again, thank you to Dr Doutreleau and the adapted physical education coaches, Yoann and Noé, for sharing their advice on how to improve life at this time.

COACH YOANN BRUNET: his YouTube channel & website

COVID-19: using sport to combat the virus


Content creator

As a fitness enthusiast, dancer and walker, I love to discover new passions and share them with other people.
As a source of well-being and creator of memories, sport is essential for me so that I can live life to the full!

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