Is Physical Therapy Safe During a Pandemic?

Written by:
Dr. Lisa Ochman

The only person who can answer that question is you after discussing the risk/reward ratio with your family and your primary care physician. At Activcore Physical Therapy, every precaution is taken to ensure your health and well-being, including: 

  • Proper mask wearing and handwashing by both patients and staff
  • Temperature checks at the door
  • Minimal to nil waiting time
  • 1:1 treatment sessions solely with your PT
  • Daily temperature checks and symptom monitoring of all staff
  • Equipment and table sanitization immediately following each session
  • Restroom sanitization multiple times throughout the day
  • All treatment tables at least ten feet apart to maintain social distancing guidelines 
  • 25% building capacity maximum 
  • Telehealth availability 
  • Quiet private practice that does not require you to enter a hospital 
  • Option for paperless intake documentation

What research over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic has determined is that regardless of anyone’s past medical history, level of activity and comorbidities, it is always beneficial to exercise in some manner that works for you. The ability to fight off the COVID-19 virus is strongly tied to your metabolic state, which is largely under your own control. Per a recent peer reviewed article published in the Sports Medicine and Health Science Journal in May of 2020 entitled The COVID-19 Pandemic and Physical Activity, “Disruption of physical activity and exercise routines and reducing physical fitness may increase susceptibility to infection and certainly increase some comorbidities associated with poor COVID-19 outcomes if protracted.”[2] The World Health Organization recommends all human beings participate in at least 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes/week of vigorous intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two. Strength training is recommended at least two days/week. The recommendation for children specifically is 60 minutes/day of moderate or vigorous physical activity. According to current data, recovery for mild COVID-19 cases is 3-6 weeks longer for patients with severe disease than the typical 2 weeks of clinical recovery without pre-existing severe comorbidities.[2] 

The following are some practical recommendations for maintaining an active lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic from a systematic review as published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [1]:

  • Perform regular exercise in daylight and not directly before bedtime
  • Spend time in nature as much as possible while maintaining social distancing protocols
  • Use internet-based online programs for activities (ie. Go Noodle for children; cosmic kids yoga; yoga apps for adults; zwift apps for cyclists and runners; etc.)
  • Reduce stress with relaxation techniques (perform 2 minutes/day of diaphragmatic breathing on your smart watch)
  • Some physical activity is better than none (climb a flight of stairs every hour; shift from sitting to standing as many times as you can in 30 seconds, several times a day; do 5 squats every hour; vacuum for 10 minutes/day; etc.)
  • Access telemedicine
  • Follow advice of the World Health Organization, American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine

Some additional recommendations:

  • Eat a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables to improve the natural bacteria in your gut and aid in metabolism and disease immunity
  • Contact your physical therapist for an evaluation and their recommendations of the most beneficial strengthening and aerobic conditioning routine for you during this time
  • Contact your primary care physician prior to beginning any new exercise routine

Works Cited:

1.  Bentlage, E., et. al. “Practical Recommendations for Maintaining Active Lifestyle during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Literature Review.” International Journal of Environmental 

2. Woods, J, et. al. “Research and Public Health.” August, 2020. [Click here for article]

“The COVID-19 pandemic and physical activity. Sports Medicine and Health Science. May, 2020. [Click here for article]

Additional Resources:

ZDoggMD Podcast: Lifestyle as a Strategy to Survive COVID with Dr. Ron Sinha,

Public health information from CDC:

Latest research from NIH:

Find NCBI SARS-CoV-2 literature, sequence, and clinical content:

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Need help? We're here for you. Contact us today to request an appointment. Also check out our telehealth offerings to get help from the comfort of your home.

Dr. Lisa Ochman

Physical Therapist | Doctor of Physical Therapy
Lisa Ochman is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who specializes in lymphedema, parkinsons, and general orthopedics with a focus on runners and triathletes. She works at Activcore in Princeton, New Jersey, located just 2 miles from Princeton University. As a 4-time ironman triathlete, Lisa has a special interest in treating athletes. She also has a passion for helping people with lymphedema (swelling in the head, neck, and/or limbs typically after cancer, surgery, or injury) as well as those suffering from parkinson's disease.
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