Exercise lags common after long COVID

A man rows on a rowing machine at a gym.

People with long-term symptoms of COVID-19 have often reported taking longer to return to normal activities, including exercise. Through two new papers, researchers describe this trend and how exercise may help people get back into their routines.

Through the first paper, which published in
JAMA Network Open, researchers shared common findings after reviewing 38 studies of more than 2,000 individuals who had COVID, including those with and without long-term symptoms. They found that reduced exercise capacity was common among people with lingering symptoms. This could be related to multiple factors. Examples range from physical deconditioning, which is common after illness, especially hospitalization. Others might include changes in breathing, heart rate, or other forms of cardiovascular function, based on each person’s response to the virus. This review is preliminary, but serves as a foundation to support future COVID and cardiopulmonary exercise-related research.

The second paper, which published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, also describes reduced exercise capacity following COVID. Through three case studies, researchers explain how a gradual return to exercise, which could be spread throughout 12 weeks, may help people return to their normal physical activity levels. They also describe how returning to exercise may even help alleviate long-term symptoms of COVID.

Both studies were partially supported by NHLBI.