Exercise May Aid in Recovery of Long Lasting COVID-19 Symptoms

Killian Meara

Killian Meara, assistant editor for ContagionLive, joined the MJH Life Sciences team in November 2020. He graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in liberal studies, and concentrations in history and psychology. He enjoys film, reading, and pretending he is a good cook. Follow him on Twitter @krmeara or email him at [email protected]

Patients who completed a 6 week rehabilitation program showed statistically significant improvement in exercise capacity, overall wellbeing and cognition.

A recent study published in the journal Chronic Respiratory Disease has discovered that exercise may improve long lasting symptoms of COVID-19 including respiratory symptoms, fatigue and cognition issues.

The research was conducted by investigators from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Center, which is a collaboration between Leicester's Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University.

"We know that COVID-19 survivors present with a wide variety of symptoms and that a one-size-fits-all approach to managing these would not be appropriate,” Enya Daynes, a lead author on the study said. “However, there are some overlap between the needs of COVID-19 survivors and patients who have accessed pulmonary rehabilitation or other conditions, such as COPD. So, we modified our well-established PR course for COVID-19 survivors and measured their symptoms to assess whether the program could be of potential benefit.”

For the study, the team of investigators followed 30 patients who participated in a 6 week rehabilitation course, which included exercise classes 2 times a week. In the program, participants did aerobic exercises, strength training and educational discussions.

Of the participants, 87% were admitted to a hospital with a COVID-19 infection, with an average stay of 10 days. 14% required mechanical ventilation and were treated in an intensive care unit. 4 of the participants had a pre-existing respiratory condition, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Findings from the study showed that participants had a statistically significant improvement in exercise capacity and an improvement in their overall wellbeing and cognition.

"There has been concern that rehabilitation may worsen or trigger symptoms of post-viral fatigue and that exercise therapy may exacerbate fatigue. The exercise element of this program is progressed by staff experienced in delivering pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation programs in line with patient's symptoms throughout the program,” Sally Singh, a senior author on the study said. “Our results did not show that fatigue worsened among the group of patients on the study, and that many of their symptoms improved. This suggests an adapted pulmonary rehabilitation course can be part of a spectrum of patient-centered and holistic approaches to treating the many different presentations of lasting COVID symptoms."