BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Doctors warn high-intensity exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic could come with some heart risks.

Lifebridge Health Director of Sports Cardiology Dr. Sunal Makadia says the virus affects the heart in different ways and different levels than other viruses.

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“We’re humbled every day that we don’t want to underestimate this virus,” Dr. Makadia said. “We know that very intense exercise can actually decrease immunity temporarily, so people could be more at risk for contracting the virus.”


Dr. Makadia said athletes by nature have fewer co-morbidities, but they may not present with symptoms. Intense exercise with the virus could lead to cardiac arrhythmia or even cardiac arrest.

He recommends if athletes test positive, they abstain from exercise for two weeks, then consult their medical provider before restarting.

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Some of those symptoms include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, or muscle pains.

Makadia’s patient, David Berdan is a two-time winner of the Baltimore Marathon and Cross Country coach at Stevenson University. He said he will be watching his athletes close this season and will plan for increased social distancing during practice.

“It’s definitely something that this year is more important we encourage them to talk to a trainer and potentially a cardiologist,” Berdan said. “It’s definitely a concern just knowing that somebody could even be asymptomatic and continue training and potentially affect their heart.”

Dr. Makadia reiterated it is safer to exercise outdoors and alone. Increased distancing should be encouraged, as well.

“Six feet apart may not necessarily be enough when you’re exercising. You’re breathing harder. You’re around more people,” Dr. Makadia said, recommending increasing the distance to 12 feet if you’re exercising indoors.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Paul Gessler