News Sci/Tech Exercise and Long-Term COVID Symptoms in Young Women
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Exercise Reduces Long-Term COVID Symptoms in Young Women

By Tarun Sai Lomte

Published on April 2, 2024

Introduction

In a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers investigated the effects of physical activity (PA) on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) symptoms among young females. The protective role of PA against several respiratory infections is well established. Regular PA augments immune function and reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle is linked to an increased risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and COVID-19 severity.

Post-COVID-19 Symptoms

One-third of SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals report long-term symptoms that persist for over four weeks post-infection. Common symptoms of this post-COVID-19 condition (PCC) include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, changes in taste/smell, cognitive dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and headache. Studies have reported inverse associations between (greater adherence to) a healthy lifestyle and PCC risk.

Gender Differences and Physical Activity

PA levels generally differ between females and males; females in most countries are less physically active than males. While males have higher COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, females show an increased PCC prevalence.

The Study and Findings

In the present study, researchers evaluated whether regular PA alleviates COVID-19 and PCC symptoms among young females. Data on SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptoms were collected using the World Health Organization (WHO) post-COVID case report form between July 20, 2022, and October 5, 2023. Overall, the study included 802 females aged 18–34. Of these, 442 contracted SARS-CoV-2, and 370 had a laboratory-confirmed infection. Most cases were mild. Over 92% of participants were vaccinated. The team found a significant association between COVID-19 prevalence and PA categories. A higher infection rate was observed in the moderate PA group compared to other groups. COVID-19 severity was mild in most cases, irrespective of PA levels.

Conclusion

Regular physical activity significantly diminishes mental and neurological symptoms in young women during and two years after COVID-19 infection, with higher activity levels correlating with fewer symptoms and reduced reinfection rates.

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