A supervised, eight-week exercise programme improved symptoms of patients with long COVID better than the current standard self-managed rehabilitation recommendations, according to a study.
''Long COVID'' occurs when symptoms develop or persist three months after SARS-CoV-2 infection. Common symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, shortness of breath and decline of mental health.
The researchers from the University of Murcia, Spain, noted that although estimated rates of people who develop long COVID vary, even the lower end of the range counts in the millions.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, compared a supervised concurrent exercise approach to the self-guided brochure. Concurrent exercise was a combination of aerobic and strength training.
Groups of about 20 people each participated in one of four intervention types: supervised concurrent exercise, specialty breathing exercises, a combination of concurrent exercise and breathing exercises, or self-guided efforts following the WHO brochure.
The concurrent training involved two sessions a week of strength training and light to moderate variable intensity aerobic exercise and one session of light intensity continuous aerobic exercise.
All sessions were conducted under medical supervision and directed by certified exercise coaches.
To be included in the study, the volunteers needed to participate in at least 20 of the 24 sessions.
The researchers found that over 80 per cent of the concurrent exercise participants responded well to the intervention. Both groups that included the concurrent training showed greater reductions in long COVID symptoms compared to the other groups, they said.
In addition, their fatigue and depression levels improved, and lower and upper body strength increased.
The team emphasised that unlike other studies conducted in specialised rehabilitation centers, this intervention is accessible ''with a low investment of resources, safely in any training center and supervised by qualified strength and conditioning coaches.''
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