Corona Virus | The South African Variant | Rehabilitation Explained

World map with message of hope regarding the corono virus South African variant and recovery and rehabilitation with Fish and Field Biokineticists

On the 5th of March 2020, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in South Africa. At the time it was believed that only those with co-morbidities, underlying health conditions and elder populations were at risk. Then came the corona virus ‘South African Variant’, a mutated version of the original virus. This variant, known as 501.V2, carries a mutation in the spike protein.  The spike protein is what the virus uses to enter human cells and the part that vaccines are trying to kill. Currently there is no evidence to suggest that this strain is more deadly than previous strains, however it does appear to be more transmissible than earlier variants – infecting a greater number of people of all ages, races, and health statuses.

What are the common symptoms of this new Variant?

Covid-19 presents itself differently in each individual

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough or sore throat
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of tase and smell
  • Diarrhoea

Serious Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure on the chest
  • Loss of speech or movement

You may of course also be asymptomatic. This means that you present with no symptoms and may be unaware that you are carrying the virus at all. Further emphasising the importance of always wearing a mask when in public… Not only to protect yourself, but to protect others who could be at risk of contracting the virus from you!

What happens if I get covid-19?

For most people who develop symptoms, about 80% will recover from the disease without needing hospitalisation. Approximately 20% will become seriously ill and require oxygen and a further 5% may become critically ill and require intensive care.

What are the long-term effects?

While the short-term effects and symptoms of Covid-19 are well documented, the long-term effects are still largely unclear. Studies on the long-term effects are few, given that the virus has not been around for exceptionally long. New research published in the Lancet medical journal earlier this month helps to explain the long- term health consequences associated with Covid-19 and the associated risk factors.

In summary, researchers found that 76% of the participants who took part in the study continued to experience at least one of their covid-19 symptoms for up to six months after being infected with the virus. They found that 63% of the participants experienced fatigue and muscle weakness after being discharged from hospital and a further 26% had trouble sleeping. In addition, 23% of participants also reported feelings of anxiety or depression.

How can I manage these long-term effects on my own?

Difficulty breathing?

It is common to continue experiencing breathlessness after being infected with Covid-19. Losing strength and fitness while being unwell, can result in breathlessness more easily when performing everyday activities. Feeling breathless can create anxiety, which can make your breathlessness worse. It is important that you try to stay calm and find the best way to manage your breathlessness.

Below is breathing technique which may help you relax and control your breathing:

  • Begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable and supported position
  • Place one hand your chest and the other on your belly
  • Only if it helps you relax, close your eyes – otherwise keep them open
  • Slowly breath in through your nose (or your mouth if this is too difficult) and then exhale slowly through your mouth
  • As you breath you should feel the hand on your belly rise higher than the hand on your chest
  • Try to use as little effort as possible, making your breathing slow, smooth and relaxed

Exercises after having covid-19?

Exercise is considered to be a form of medicine and is an important part of your recovery following covid-19 infection. A workout can help to improve fitness, reduce breathlessness and stress, improve mood, and increase energy levels.

Exercise programs should be personalised, and considerations must be taken when working with individuals who have experienced certain symptoms. For For example, if you have suffered from respiratory symptoms, such as pneumonia, we would recommended to rest for at least one week after symptoms have subsided before gradually returning to exercise. While those who have experienced cardiac or heart symptoms, should rest for up to 2 -3 weeks following symptoms. It is advisable to get medical clearance from your doctor before starting with an exercise program post-infection.

It is the general rule of thumb that we should aim to perform 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercises a day, 5 days a week. Any activity that results in you feeling moderately to severely breathless can be regarded as a cardiovascular exercise.  Exercises may include fast paced walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, marching on the spot, or even climbing stairs.

When you begin exercising for the first time after infection, you may not manage a full 30 minutes. This is okay! If 2 minutes is all you can manage at first, record this time and try to gradually build on that each day.  Even 30 seconds to a minute more each day is progress!

It is important to note that if you are on medically prescribed oxygen, you may need to exercise under the guidance of a trained healthcare profession such as a Biokineticist, once cleared by your doctor to do so.

Is Aqua Therapy an effective form of cardiovascular exercise?

The answer is YES! Not only is aqua therapy an effective form of cardiovascular training, but resistance training too. Performing exercises against the resistance of the water tackles both strength and endurance. With that being said, the water provides support and buoyancy, creating an ideal environment conducive to all levels of fitness. Exercises can be adjusted easily to suit each individual and ensure effective and achievable exercise goals for all.

If you are someone needing to gradually get back into exercise following Covid-19 infection, and are unsure of how to go about it, give us call and one of our Biokineticists we would be happy to help you!


Button, R. (2021, January 12). 76% of hospitalised Covid-19 patients experience lingering symptoms, according to a new study. Health24.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (2020, October 12). World Health Organization.

Mastroianni, B. (2020, September 5). Returning to Exercise After Recovering from COVID-19: What to Know. Healthline.

Roberts, B. M. (2021, January 8). South Africa coronavirus variant: What is the risk? BBC News.

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