A new Irish study has offered hope to patients struggling with long COVID.
Initial findings from Ireland’s first exercised-based COVID-19 recovery programme at St James’s Hospital show patients experienced improvements in their symptoms after following a specific recovery programme.
The programme involves two 50-minute virtual exercise classes for a minimum of six weeks.
The classes involve a range of aerobic and strength-based exercises that can be specifically tailored to the patient.
Preliminary data on the first 40 patients to complete the programme shows that over nine-in-ten experienced an improvement in their symptoms.
The programme was designed by physiotherapist Kate O’Brien and, on The Pat Kenny Show this morning, she outlined what it involves.
“Patients are referred into the programme after they come to our post-acute COVID clinic in James’s,” she said.
“They still have some persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, aches and pains and muscle weakness after having COVID and those symptoms limit their ability to exercise safely on their own.
“So, I enrol patients into the programme and it is bi-weekly. So, it is on a Monday and Wednesday morning and it is about 50 minutes or an hour.
“I suppose it is a mix of aerobics and strength training with some breath work as well as some flexibility work.”
Ms O’Brien said the study did not include a control group of patients who were denied the exercise classes, making it is harder to say with certainty how much of the recovery can be attributed to the programme.
She does have data from a previous study which tracked the recovery of long-COVID patients before the programme was available.
“I am also doing a research masters at Trinity, so I had already followed a cohort of about 60 patients for over a year after being hospitalised with COVID and I did the same monitoring with those patients, but they didn’t have access to this exercise programme,” she said.
“I would say my findings from that was that their progress was definitely slower. There was no huge improvement in their quality-of-life measures or their fatigue scores over the year period.
“I suppose, at the moment, because the class is for patient care and it is clinical, I don’t have a direct control group. I don’t have a set of patients who have had COVID and I can do a pre and post-class assessment with – because you want to enrol everyone.”
A total of 60 patients have been referred to the programme so far.
They have a media age of 45 and just over four-in-ten were men.
You can listen back to Ms O’Brien here: