Lack of muscle fitness could have a role in COVID-19 recovery

A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal

A lack of muscle fitness, leading to breathlessness and a reduced ability to exercise, could be one of the lasting symptoms of COVID-19.

When the muscles are not fit, known as deconditioning, activities can tire you out more than if your muscles were fit, or conditioned through regular use.

What did the study look at?

The study used an exercise test to look at how well people stayed active after they had been ill with COVID-19. 75 people who had been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in Italy took part in the study. They were invited to undergo regular exercise tests for four months after their initial stay in hospital. They also had a range of other medical tests to check how well their lungs were working.

What do the results show?

During the exercise testing, people who had lower levels of performance slowed down earlier in the tests, suggesting a lack of muscle fitness. They also stopped the exercise much sooner. In addition, findings from the medical tests suggested the lungs were working normally. The authors believe that a lack of muscle fitness could explain the reduced ability to exercise.

Why is this important?

This study helps to explain the reasons behind ongoing breathlessness for people recovering from COVID-19 and suggests that a lack of muscle fitness is common. The authors suggest that the muscle deconditioning may be caused by the direct effect of the virus on the muscles or it could be related to long stays in hospital with little activity. As this is a small study, a longer follow-up study is needed to look at all elements of a person’s recovery from COVID-19 to understand these processes further.

Read the original research paper

Title: Deconditioning as main mechanism of impaired exercise response in COVID-19 survivors

Access ELF materials

Learn more about keeping active and keeping your lungs healthy: