"Long Covid" is a name used for the condition some people experience after diagnosed or suspected Covid-19 illness comprising a diverse range of ongoing symptoms .
Symptoms may be new or a worsening of problems that started before the Covid illness and may include the following:
one sided weakness
short term memory loss
word finding difficulties
"racing" or "pounding" heart rate
reduced exercise tolerance
increased anxiety and/or depression
higher resting heart rate
reduced body temperature regulation
other neurological symptoms
reduced quality of life
The people I have been dealing with include men and women between the ages of 22 and 60 years and vary from athletes with no previous comorbidites to previously sedentary people, and never smokers, ex-smokers and current smokers with and without comorbidities.
The symptoms experienced suggest that the illness can affect multiple body systems including the cardiorespiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and neurological systems. Without the benefit of extensive clinical investigations and/or monitoring it is difficult to devise safe exercise programmes for those most severely affected. For some people it is not simply a case of just getting back to the activity and/or exercise they did before illness. Some who try find they end up laid up on the sofa or in bed for days after trying to get back to their previously normal activities.
The question is should a person affected by Long Covid increase their physical activity and exercise? My immediate response would be yes, however, I also add a word of caution. For those more affected by Long Covid I recommend having a check up with your GP or Long Covid Clinic if you are thinking about engaging in an exercise programme. Once your clinical observations are within safe ranges and any investigations clear you from any serious problems it may be a good idea to engage with a professional with knowledge and experience of Long Covid and Physical Activity/Exercise. Some areas may have specific recovery programmes which your GP may be know about so ask your GP.
I know there are the naysayers who don't believe the illness is real etc etc etc (please spare me your comments; I've read just about every point of view and have not countered because I value everybodys' right to freedom of speech:-)
In my experience as having been a personal trainer for many years and now a Physiotherapist I can tell you the people I have dealt with display unusual physical responses to fairly minimal physical activity. I understand this is purely anecdotal but anecdotal evidence is all we've got until formal research is completed. Yes it is important to regain our physical activity levels and get back to normal but we need to adopt an intelligent approach to exercise. If minimal activity leaves you exhausted for days then listen to your body. Your mind may be telling you the activity is minimal based on pre-Covid levels but the multiple systems of the body are telling you the activity is too much. Remember you can see your GP and ask if there are Long Covid recovery programmes in your area.
Suzanne McCollum (BSc Exercise Science BSc Physiotherapy) is a Physiotherapist working with Long Covid recovery patients.