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Coronavirus Symptoms and Deconditioning: How Therapists Can Help Speed Recovery

Apr 22

The most common Coronavirus symptoms include cough, fever, and shortness of breath that can be mild or severe and cause detrimental effects. One of the lesser talked about effects of the virus is known as deconditioning. Deconditioning is a decline in function that occurs with prolonged inactivity and bed rest as your body struggles to recover. This can occur whether you or someone you know has been hospitalized or has been self-quarantined at home. The general rule is “use it or lose it” but how quickly your fitness level declines depends on your original fitness level, your age, the length of inactivity time, and the reason for the inactivity. It takes about two weeks of physical inactivity to lose a significant amount (almost 25-30%!) of strength and endurance.


Cardiopulmonary (Heart & Lungs): faster heart rates at rest and with activity, blood pressure changes, decreased ability to exercise, increased difficulty breathing with activity and rest, increased risk of blood clots

Muscles and bones: decreased muscle size, weakness/atrophy of muscles, increased risk of osteoporosis, loss of flexibility and contractures, increased risk of fractures

Digestive: loss of appetite, constipation

Skin: wounds and pressure ulcers

Psychological: confusion, anxiety, depression from isolation

Functional: decreased ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, grooming, self-care, poor endurance and increased fatigue with activity, impaired balance/coordination


Patients that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 appear to recover from their symptoms within one to two weeks for mild cases. For more severe cases, recovery may take six weeks or longer. Be sure to follow the instructions of your health care provider, but in general, you can return to normal activities after at least seven days have passed since symptoms began AND 72 hours after fever is gone and other symptoms are improving. When you have been cleared for activity, therapists can help.


Physical and Occupational Therapists can help restore function and improve your ability to perform self-care activities, to walk, and to engage in recreational and work activities. Your therapist will perform a thorough evaluation to determine your specific needs after your bout of inactivity and deconditioning. Depending on your specific impairments and functional limitations, the goals of therapy will include reconditioning and:

  • Increasing endurance
  • Increasing strength and muscle tone
  • Improving flexibility and ROM
  • Improving heart and lung function


Our goal is to get you back to functioning and back to normal after this period of inactivity. Reconditioning, or regaining strength and function, can often take twice as long as the period of deconditioning. So, in mild cases of coronavirus with 2 weeks of inactivity, it may take up to 4 weeks to return to your original fitness level. And if your case of coronavirus was more severe, it may take you up to 12-16 weeks to fully recover. ​​​​​​ Contact any of our clinics today for information on scheduling an in-person evaluation or an evaluation via telehealth to speed your recovery process through individualized exercise prescription.



Written by Jennifer Cazeaux, PT, DPT, OCS, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Orthopedic Clinical Specialist