Long COVID Can Limit Your Ability to Exercise: Research

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open found that adults with long-term COVID lost some of their capacity to exercise three months after contracting the illness.

Cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) was utilised in 38 prior studies to assess how well individuals with extended COVID could exercise after recovering from COVID, according to researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. To determine how well their heart and lungs were functioning as they exercised on a treadmill or a stationary cycle, CPET evaluated how much oxygen they consumed during that activity.

If someone has long-lasting COVID symptoms, they may need to switch from a high-impact sport like doubles tennis to a lower-impact one like golf, according to lead author and UCSF cardiologist Matthew Durstenfeld, MD.

But it’s crucial to remember that this is only an average, he added. “While many people don’t suffer a drop in their energy capacity, some people do,”

By comparing the exercise testing results of 359 patients who recovered from COVID against those of 464 patients who exhibited symptoms suggestive of protracted COVID, the team reduced their sample size from 38 studies to 9. The participants in the study ranged in age from 39 to 56.

Although the studies’ small sample sizes, oversampling of COVID patients who were hospitalised, and differing definitions of long COVID led the authors to express some scepticism about the findings of their meta-analysis, their findings nevertheless “provided evidence of a clinically significant, mild to moderate decrease in exercise capacity among individuals with [long COVID] compared with infected individuals without symptoms despite differing definitions of long COVID.”

It’s not news that long COVID symptoms might make it difficult to exercise, but knowing how CPET results affect long COVID patients could be a useful measurement tool.

One of the study’s limitations, according to the researchers, was that neither their search strategy nor the studies included in the analysis were restricted to only those published in peer-reviewed journals. It was also challenging to determine the prevalence of impaired exercise ability due to selection bias, which resulted from the fact that a large number of research participants had been assessed after recovering from severe COVID infections.

According to the author Priscilla Hsue, MD, “Further research should incorporate long-term observational assessments to determine the trajectory of exercise ability.” Studies on rehabilitation to treat deconditioning are urgently needed, as is more research into respiratory problems, damage to the nerves that control automatic bodily activities, and the inability to raise the heart rate sufficiently during exercise.

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