Changes in training activity post COVID-19 infection in recreational runners and cyclists




Background: Anecdotal evidence suggests that athletes struggle to return to exercise post COVID-19 infection. However, studies evaluating the effect of COVID-19 on athletes’ exercise activity are limited.

Objectives: The objectives of this study were: (i) to describe the perceptions of recreational runners and cyclists recovering from COVID-19 on their training activity and general wellbeing, (ii) to compare device-measured training data in runners and cyclists pre- and post COVID-19, with noninfected controls that had a training interruption.

Methods: Participants who were recruited via social media completed an online questionnaire (n=61), including demographic, health and COVID-19 descriptive data. In a sub-sample, device-measured training data (heart rate, time, distance and speed, n=27) were obtained from GPS devices for four weeks before infection and on resumption of training. Similar data were collected for the control group (n=9) whose training had been interrupted but by factors excluding COVID-19.

Results: Most participants experienced a mild to moderate illness (91%) that was associated with a training interruption time of two-four weeks. Decreases in heart rate, relative exercise intensity, speed, time and distance were observed during the first week of returning to training for both groups, followed by an increase from Week two onwards.

Discussion: Results failed to support a ‘COVID-19 effect’ on exercise activity as reductions in training variables occurred in both the COVID-19 and control groups. A possible explanation for the reductions observed is a deliberate gradual return to training by athletes post-COVID-19.

Conclusion: More research is needed using device-measured training data prior to and post COVID-19 infection to better understand the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on the exercise activity of athletes. 


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How to Cite

Emeran, A., Lambert, E. ., Paruk, T., & Bosch, A. (2022). Changes in training activity post COVID-19 infection in recreational runners and cyclists. South African Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1).