GARNER, N.C. — COVID-19 has left a lasting impact on our physical health, whether the virus infects us or not.


   What You Need To Know

Deconditioning is a medical diagnosis

It's a direct or indirect affect of COVID-19

A physical therapist assistant says rates of diagnosed patients at their clinic increased

Bodyweight exercises could be great remedies


Over the last two years, exercise became secondary to staying alive. Many scrapped disciplined exercise routines and healthy eating habits over the last two years, while others did not.

Gyms are filling up again with folks who are looking to physically make up for lost time. The medical and science community said those who had COVID-19 probably shouldn't jump back into the gym right away. This is because of a medical term called deconditioning.

One medical journal describes deconditioning as a set of “changes in the body that occur during a period of inactivity. The changes happen in the heart, lungs and muscles. They make you feel tired and weak (fatigued) and decrease your ability to be active.”

The loss in physical health didn’t simply affect people recovering from the Coronavirus. People who swapped the couch for any level and kind of training during periods of lockdown are impacted too. 

It’s why some have no choice but to make rehabilitation their workouts. A physical therapist assistant said she sees the issue unfold every day at her job.

“They end up here because they try and lift too much to begin with,” Carley Younger said.

Younger has been a PTA for a few years. She said getting in shape can be a step-by-step process. It’s why she recommends taking one step at a time when returning to the gym. 

"So you probably are weak and not as stable as you used to be, not as strong as you used to be and can’t handle the intensity of activity,” Younger said.

Younger said she sees people pushing their bodies too far before becoming a patient at her Garner physical therapy clinic Fyzical. Younger doubles as an Orangetheory fitness coach.

“COVID changes your baseline,” Younger said. “Just general deconditioning, there has been an increase of patients coming in with that even if they are being seen for something else.”

For those who have or had the virus the setbacks can be even worse.

“If you had COVID-19, and you are trying to think of where you were at before you went back to (the gym before) COVID-19, not even at your max not at your prime — but at your baseline — take it down. It backs you up,” Younger said.

Before the pandemic, deconditioning was typically treated in elderly hospitalized patients. Their bodies and minds suffered from being bound to a hospital bed for months without movement.

Now, some of the physical symptoms have shown up in much younger patients.

Sports doctors label the diagnosis as a loss of muscle mass, strength, endurance and a reduced capacity for aerobic exercises, like running based on prolonged periods of inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle. In other words, it’s when you fall out of shape.

For those with chronic pain or injuries, rushing into a workout routine only brings the more serious issue to the surface.

“I would say that has a big effect on the amount of people we end up seeing backtracking into our offices,” Younger said.

Gym closures and stay-at-home orders are partly to blame as side effects of the virus, proving COVID could affect you even if it doesn’t infect you.

Younger said overexertion, when a person strains their bodies beyond their physical limits, is another potential risk. She listed three red flags to look for when making a determination:


  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Chest pain
  3. Over-exhaustion  


“Maximal efforts can be dangerous,” she said.

Her attention is to pay attention to RPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion. It is measured on a 1-10 scale.

“If you hit a maximal effort, you could take those 10 steps back when you really are just trying to go forward,” Younger said.

Younger said to avoid red flags by aiming your RPE in the 6-8 range.

“Especially if you don’t have that foundation built to begin with,” she said.

The good news is there are ways to become healthy again without leaving your home.

Bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and squats, are a great starting point for someone to build up strength using their own body.

“That’s another way to progress,” she said.

The fitness advocate said these bodyweight exercises are bodily primers as a training session gets underway. 

“A nice warm-up is going to make your stretches and mobility work a little bit easier, smoother and less painful,” she said.

Stretching is more beneficial after your blood is pumping.

“If we can help keep mobility in a patient it can help prevent injury,” she said.

Exercise is a remedy for injuries suffered while exercising.

The goal is focusing on form, not speed. To make progress she said it is important to keep a bodyweight movement smooth and steady. If one side of the body is used for an exercise be sure to incorporate the other side.

Younger’s advice is to find a strength-resistance band to wrap around door handles. The trick is not moving in the direction of the band’s resistance. This allows a person to use muscles to strengthen muscle groups on their feet. The lower body stabilizes the upper body, as the body resists the band’s pressure. Core strength is built up, too.

“This is a super easy thing for you to do at home, most people have a doorway,” she said.

Symmetrical bodyweight exercises improve range of motion and flexibility. Standing throughout a bodyweight exercise creates core stability important for balance in everyday activities without transferring force onto the spine.

“We are looking for function and longevity when we are getting back into activity. We want you to feel good,” she said.

A former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona discussed the social implications of people coming together. Carmona reflected on what people weren’t allowed to do, followed by the benefits working out in social settings will have on us as a society.

“People are shut-in. They are not able to express themselves as humans. Be close to people. Give a hug. High fives. Socialize. All of those kinds of things,” Carmona said.

The doctor labeled the benefits are healthy lung function due to cardiovascular exercise and retention of muscle mass. However, he emphasized there is a social reward, too.

“All of those are important, but (exercise) brings people together, and we get to bring them together safely. It allows people to express their humanity. As human beings, we long to be around other people and share its information,” he said.