Exercise-based rehabilitation programmes may help people living with long-COVID

A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal. 


Rehabilitation programmes are offered to people living with long-COVID, however there is some debate about whether exercise should be included in these programmes. Extreme tiredness is one of the symptoms associated with long-COVID and there is mixed evidence about whether exercise could make symptoms of tiredness worse.

What did the study look at?

A new study included 170 individuals with long-COVID whose symptoms persisted after 12-weeks of COVID infection. The authors tested how effective a 6-week rehabilitation program was at improving COVID-19 symptoms for this group.  

The rehabilitation program consisted of exercise and advice and education, which was relevant for a person’s symptoms. It also collected information on people’s exercise ability and quality of life before and after the program. 

What did the results show?

  • Extreme tiredness improved in over half (60%) of the people in the study. This means that for most people, the rehabilitation program did not increase tiredness. 
  • Most people improved their ability to exercise with around three-quarters of people reaching a minimal important difference when assessed for endurance and exercise intensity. 
  • Just over half of people improved their endurance, which means they felt able to exercise for longer. This shows that the rehabilitation programme may also be effective at improving fitness in some people.  
  • The number of COVID-19 symptoms reduced after intense exercise in those who completed the programme.  

Why is this important?

Rehabilitation has been effective for other lung conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD.) This study is the first to report the effects of an exercise-based rehabilitation programme on long-COVID symptoms. The findings suggest potential for this strategy to overcome extreme tiredness as a symptom of long-COVID. As extreme tiredness can have a big impact on daily life, further research into rehabilitation strategies may improve quality of life for people affected by long-COVID. 


Read the full article here: Changes in Fatigue Symptoms following an Exercise-Based Rehabilitation Programme for Patients with Long COVID