Women with long-term COVID may never be able to exercise like they did before their illness.
BLOOMINGTON – Prolonged COVID, or the lingering side effects of coronavirus infection, often leaves patients with dozens of symptoms, including extreme fatigue. Now, a new study finds that women who become “long carriers” of COVID may never be able to exercise at the same rate again.
Some women have reported developing heart rate irregularities after their COVID-19 infection, affecting exertion and recovery from physical activity, according to a team from Indiana University in Bloomington.
Persistent heart and lung problems in women with prolonged COVID-19 can lead to shortness of breath or joint and muscle pain. Researchers say men with COVID-19 seem to experience more severe symptoms and higher death rates, but this is the first time that scientists have found evidence that women are struggling harder after infection.
Previous studies have shown that women outnumber men 3 to 1 in seeking treatment for persistent symptoms after a positive diagnosis for COVID-19.
Are women experiencing menopause more at risk?
In the new study, the team compared women who walked for six minutes, tracking how long it took for their hearts to return to baseline. Before the walk test, the researchers measured the resting heart rate, blood pressure, amount of oxygen in the blood, and ratings of perceived shortness of breath after at least 10 minutes of sitting rest.
The women had to walk as far as possible during the test, without any other stimulation. Immediately after the test, the team again evaluated post-exercise heart rate, blood oxygen, ratings of perceived shortness of breath, and ratings of perceived exertion.
Women who had a history of severe lung disease, heart disease, or smoking tobacco products in the past six months did not participate in the experiment.
As a result of these findings, the study authors believe that women experiencing prolonged COVID must receive a specific rehabilitation program from their doctors, which focuses on the recovery of pulmonary output.
This is especially important for postmenopausal patients the researchers say, these women have a higher rate of restrictive lung abnormalities as they age.
“Given the higher prevalence of age-related physical disability in women compared to men, our findings show that a specific rehabilitation program could be especially helpful for women and other groups affected by persistent COVID-19 symptoms, thus promoting recovery and minimizing susceptibility to deterioration in fitness, ”says study author Dr. Stephen Carter in a Press release.