Experts Advise People with Long Covid to Avoid Intense Workouts, Study Finds
A new study has revealed that individuals with long Covid who experience fatigue, illness, and pain for extended periods after exercise should avoid intense workouts. Long Covid is estimated to affect tens of thousands of people in the UK alone, and a common issue among sufferers is the worsening of symptoms for weeks following a single bout of exercise. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, provides evidence that biological changes, such as severe muscle damage, mitochondrial problems, and the presence of microclots in the body, are to blame for these persistent symptoms.
Biological Changes Identified as the Culprit
The study involved 25 patients with long Covid who reported experiencing malaise after exercising, as well as 21 individuals who had fully recovered from Covid. None of the participants had been hospitalized with Covid, and all were fit and healthy before contracting the virus. Each participant spent approximately 10-15 minutes on an exercise bicycle, with blood samples and skeletal muscle biopsies taken a week before and the day after the task.
Lower Exercise Capacity and Muscle Fibers
The results showed that, on average, people with long Covid had a lower exercise capacity compared to healthy participants. Analysis of the biopsies revealed that those with long Covid had a greater proportion of white fibers in their muscles, which have fewer mitochondria and capillaries. These findings explain, in part, why individuals with long Covid have a reduced capacity for exercise.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Muscle Pain
The study also found that the mitochondria in people with long Covid did not function as well as those in healthy participants. Furthermore, individuals with long Covid had more clumps of a protein called amyloid in their skeletal muscles, although these “microclots” did not appear to block blood vessels. Comparison of the biopsies taken before and after exercise showed that the function of the mitochondria worsened in those with long Covid, leading to more tissue damage and signs of the body attempting repairs. This may explain the muscle pain experienced by these patients.
Implications for Exercise Recommendations
Dr. Rob Wüst, one of the study’s authors, emphasized that people with long Covid should avoid intense exercise. Intense workouts can damage muscles, worsen metabolism, and contribute to muscle pain and fatigue that can persist for weeks. The findings of this study align with previous research suggesting that treatments targeting mitochondrial health could be beneficial for long Covid sufferers. However, it is important to note that other factors, such as persistent inflammation, may also play a role in the fatigue experienced by these individuals.
Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind long Covid and develop effective treatments. In the meantime, individuals with long Covid are advised to consult with their healthcare providers and tailor their exercise routines to their specific needs and limitations.
Original Story at www.theguardian.com – 2024-01-04 10:00:00