20 Apr How Can Exercise Physiology Help Long Covid Sufferers?
Written by Curtis Allderidge, Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Covid-19 is an infectious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The latest evidence suggests that people with chronic diseases, conditions, or a compromised immune system are at the greatest risk of experiencing severe symptoms during and post-infection.
Majority of people will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without any special medical treatment, but some in rare and severe cases will require hospitalisation and urgent medical attention.
Symptoms vary from individual to individual but the most commonly reported symptoms include (1):
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Cognitive Impairment (brain fog and memory issues)
- Angina (chest pain)
- Persistent Cough
- Muscle Weakness
- Joint Pain
- Insomnia (poor sleep quality)
- Memory and Cognitive Issues
- Heart Palpitations
The current research notes that women are more susceptible to physical decline and fatigue following covid infection but there is not yet an identifiable reason as to why this is the case?!
What is Long Covid?
Long Covid is defined as a set of persistent physical and mental symptoms that lasts for more than 12-weeks after the initial Covid diagnosis and the symptoms being experienced cannot be explained by any other alternative diagnosis.
Benefits of exercise for Long Covid
Long Covid has been shown to cause deconditioning due to the prolonged experience of symptoms and sedentary behavior such as bed rest. Fortunately, exercise can counteract both deconditioning and sedentary behavior.
- ↓ Severity of Symptoms
- ↑ Mental Health
- ↑ Immunity
- ↓ Joint Pain and Muscle Weakness
- ↑ Cardiovascular Fitness
- ↑ Muscle and Bone Strength
- ↑ Body Composition (increased muscle mass and reduced body fat percentage)
- ↓ Risk of Developing Cardiovascular and Chronic diseases
- ↓ Inflammation Biomarkers
How can an Exercise Physiologist help with Long Covid?
Exercise Physiologists will perform an assessment and then develop an individualised and periodised exercise rehabilitation program based on the severity of a person’s Long Covid condition.
Education and strategies will be given during consultations as to how better manage the prolonged symptoms being experienced i.e., fatigue, muscle stiffness, weakness, and joint pain etc.
It is well shown in the literature that any form of physical activity helps to improve mental health by releasing chemicals such as endorphins and hormones that help improve mood. (2).
Group exercise also helps to lower feelings of loneliness and isolation, so that might be something to look at, especially in regards to individuals suffering from Long Covid. (3)
Exercise is imperative as lung functioning and cardiac health are some of the most impacted bodily systems effected by covid. The exercise programs prescribed by Exercise Physiologists will appropriately and constantly challenge the cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular systems.
If you’re suffering from long covid and are wanting to return to work, improve your quality of life and activities of daily living, Exercise Physiologists are here to help.
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