UUntil recently, running was an important part of Emma Zimmerman’s life. The 26-year-old freelance journalist and recent graduate is a competitive distance runner in college and, even after she graduated, logs about 50 miles per week. So she’s been trying to get back to her running routine about a week after a possible case of COVID-19 in March, trying her best to overcome the resulting discomfort. her initial allergy-like symptoms. Each time, however, “I would be stuck in bed for days with severe crippling fatigue,” says Zimmerman.
Months later, Zimmerman was still experiencing health problems including exhaustion, migraines, brain fog, nausea, numbness, and screen sensitivity—a range of symptoms that made doctors diagnosed her with Long COVID. While she can’t know for sure, she’s concerned those workouts early in her recovery could make her condition worse.
“I didn’t know I should try to get as much rest as I needed to get some rest,” she says.
Stories like Zimmernan’s — illness, improvement, exercise, accident — are common in long COVID world. And they highlight what many researchers, patients and advocates say is one of the most powerful tools for managing and even potentially preventing long-term COVID: rest.
The only guaranteed way to avoid Long COVID is to not get infected with SARS-CoV-2. But if someone is sick, “Rest is extremely important to give your body and immune system a chance to fight off an acute infection,” says Dr. Janna Friedly, a post-rehabilitation specialist. COVID at the University of Washington, said. recovering from long COVID it is her. “People are fighting to get over it and think it’ll go away in a few days and they’ll get better, and that doesn’t really work with COVID.”
Researchers are still learning a lot about long-term COVID, so it’s impossible to say with certainty whether rest can actually prevent its development – or conversely, whether early activity causes complications. But anecdotally, Friedly says that many of the Long COVID patients she meets are married working women who rush to get back to normal as soon as possible. It’s difficult to give everyone one-size-fits-all guidance on how much rest is enough, but Friedly recommends that anyone recovering from COVID-19 avoid intense exercise for at least a few weeks. and avoid fatigue.
For those who have developed long-term COVID, rest may also be helpful to manage symptoms including fatigue and post-exertional irritability (PEM), or collapse after physical or mental exertion. or emotions. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions “tempo“, an activity management strategy that involves breaking up activity and alternating it with rest to avoid overworking and worsening symptoms.
In an international study published last year, researchers asked more than 3,700 long-term addicts about their symptoms. Nearly half said they found pacing at least somewhat helpful for symptom control. Meanwhile, when other researchers surveyed about 500 yards long for a study published in April, the majority said physical activity aggravated their symptoms, had no effect, or yielded mixed results. That could be due to aging enemies being degraded in mitochondria, which produce energy that cells can use, Recent research shows that.
Before long COVID existed, researchers and patients encouraged rest and pacing for management of myocarditis/chronic fatigue syndrome (I/CFS). Characteristic symptoms of this condition include PEM and severe, persistent fatigue — diagnostic criteria that many people with Long-Term COVID-19 now meet. Research of the more than 200 people with long-term COVID published in January found that 71% had chronic fatigue and nearly 60% had experienced PEM.
For years, doctors have tried to treat patients with ME/CFS by gradually increasing their physical activity levels. But that practice has proven to be not only ineffective, but also harmfulBecause people with ME/CFS “have a unique and pathogenic response to extreme exercise,” explains Jaime Seltzer, medical and scientific outreach director for advocacy group MEAction, due to cellular dysfunction. cell. Most people with ME/CFS prefer pacing over exercise-based therapy, a 2019 study found.
To achieve effective speed, says Seltzer, people must learn to recognize the signs that they are overdoing it and open up to insightful ideas about productivity. “If you’re doing laundry, for example, there’s no saying you have to fold each item in one sitting,” she says. Breaking up tasks can feel odd, but it can be crucial to staying energized.
People with new Long COVID symptoms should keep a diary of their diet, activity, sleep, and symptoms for several weeks to learn what triggers them, says Friedly. For those who can afford it, a fitness tracker or other wearable can also be helpful to gauge how much exertion is too much, Seltzer says. Once someone has an idea of behaviors that improve or worsen symptoms, they can use that information to plan the day and break down activities into manageable chunks. .
However, for many people who test positive for COVID-19, even taking a few days off work to quarantine is a financial and logistical challenge. Many people have no choice but to return to their jobs or physically taxing responsibilities like childcare as soon as possible. “A complete rest is important socioeconomic and political advice,” says Seltzer.
People with long COVID or ME/CFS can secure accommodation at worksuch as working from home, taking on a role that can be performed sitting instead of standing, or apply for disability if necessary. Seltzer also suggests relying on friends, faith groups, or mutual support networks for help with some tasks. Additionally, Friedly recommends looking for creative ways to use less energy throughout the day. When she was living with a long COVID symptom, she bought multiple pairs of identical socks so she never had to waste time and effort searching for the right pair of socks.
Such things “seem small,” she says, “but if you add up those things throughout the day, they make a big difference in how much energy you’re using.”
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