Penn has developed a physical therapy program, which varies depending on the severity of each patient’s symptoms. “For some patients who have been very seriously affected and who cannot do any activity, how do you get back to the household chores you have to do on a daily basis? How do we pace this throughout the day so that you don’t have to do everything at the same time? “
For those with less severe symptoms, the emphasis is on gradually resuming activity, keeping the heart rate 60 to 70 percent of its maximum at the start. “If they tolerate it and agree for a week or two, we’ll build on it,” he said.
Long-distance Covid patients tend to ‘have a honeymoon period, maybe two or three weeks after acute illness,’ said Dr R. Kannan Mutharasan, cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and co-director of the program of sports cardiology. “They finally feel back to themselves and say ‘I’m going to go for a run’,” he said. But afterwards, they notice that they don’t feel like they used to. A few weeks later, they may experience “things like dizziness or a fast heartbeat even when walking.”
This is what happened to one of his patients, Hannah Engle, 23, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 last July. She tried going for a run again in October and her heart rate jumped to 210 beats per minute. She is now on the “go slow” approach, but still suffers setbacks if she takes too much. In May, for example, she experienced chest pain and dizziness after what appeared to be a simple workout with jumping jacks and stretching.
Ms. Engle has always been an active person. As a child, she competed in diving, cheerleading and gymnastics, and even did gymnastics at the club level all the way to college. After graduating, she continued to stay active through CrossFit, weightlifting, and the 5K run while working out in Arlington, Virginia to encourage people to enter STEM – science fields, technology, engineering and mathematics.