Long COVID and Physical Activity
Helping people living with mild to moderate symptoms of Long Covid to engage in physical activity to support their recovery.
If you have been diagnosed with Long COVID, or think you may be experiencing Long COVID symptoms, you must consult a medical professional before attempting any level of physical activity.
What is Long COVID?
Long COVID, also known as Post-COVID-19 Syndrome, is defined by NHS England as signs and symptoms that develop during or after COVID-19 and continue for more than 12 weeks, where symptoms cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Up to one in three patients develop LC after contracting COVID-19, and symptoms vary in every individual and can present differently as well as fluctuate. Some commonly reported symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Muscle and joint pain
- Dry cough
- Sleeping difficulty
- Anxiety and depression
Physical activity (PA) has many health benefits and is known to aid recovery for many health conditions, it can also help prevent long-term health conditions such as diabetes. However, given the complexity surrounding Long COVID, it is vital that physical activity is approached with caution. For this reason, it is essential that the physical activity sector is equipped with the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of people with Long COVID without doing further harm as we know that attempting too much too soon can cause a relapse in symptoms.
For more information about Long COVID and physical activity please see the Learn & Share webinar recording below.
The Herts Sport & Physical Activity Partnership is excited to be leading the development of an exciting feasibility project to explore how engaging with community physical activity opportunities can benefit those recovering from mild to moderate symptoms of Long COVID. The project has been funded by the Public Health team within Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and is also being evaluated by HCC’s Public Health Evidence and Intelligence (PHEI) team.
This 12-month project involves providing a physical activity triage and signpost service for those that have engaged with either of Hertfordshire’s NHS Covid Rehabilitation services, ensuring that recommended activities are suitable and safe for those attending. Of course, those working with these individuals will need a grounded knowledge of Long COVID so the project is also offering funded CIMPSA-recognised training to those wishing to be part of the physical activity pathway (further details can be seen below).
Specific deliverables of the project include:
- Introduce a referral pathway from Hertfordshire’s NHS Covid Rehabilitation Services to community physical activity.
- Exploring how physical activity can benefit an individual’s ability to recover from Long COVID.
- Mapping and assessing existing physical activity sessions for their suitability with training offered.
- Introducing a range of suitable and graded physical activity opportunities to help recovery.
- Developing new physical activity provision where there are gaps in the provision
- Improve knowledge and awareness of Long COVID and physical activity through training, webinars & resources.
- Developing and delivering a comprehensive evaluation framework.
In May 2023, The Herts Sport & Physical Activity Partnership (HSP), in partnership with Hertfordshire Community NHS Services, delivered a Learn and Share webinar to improve awareness of the complexities of living with Long COVID, what support exists in Hertfordshire and how physical activity could benefit recovery for some if approached in a controlled and safe way.
The event included expert speakers from Hertfordshire’s Covid Rehabilitation Services, Nuffield Health and HSP speaking about their funded project (more details below). As with HSP’s wider project, the event focuses on how physical activity could be used to aid recovery from mild to moderate Long COVID symptoms.
If you are a deliverer of physical activity in Hertfordshire and you would like to make your sessions more inclusive to those living with Long COVID, you’re welcome to register for our funded training opportunity. The course covers five units, which focus on improving awareness and understanding of the condition and practical application when engaging those with symptoms. It also involves a recently updated Long COVID-specific unit informed by the latest evidence for those suffering recurrent and long-lasting symptoms.
The Covid-19 Rehabilitation Course is offered by FUTURE FIT and is recognised by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), offering 3 CIMSPA CPD points. Details of the Training course.
Accessing Local Physical Activities
Due to the potential complexities involved with physical activity for those living with Long COVID, only those who have passed through the NHS Covid Rehabilitation services (and therefore approved by medical professionals) will be able to access this project’s triage service. We hope the learning developed throughout the project will then be applied wider. If you think you may be living with Long COVID it is advised, you see your GP before attempting any form of self-management.
However, if you are confident that it is safe for you to exercise, but you’re not sure what to do next, you can use the Moving More Activity Finder to find opportunities to get active happening near you!