yoUntil recently, running was a major part of Emma Zimmerman’s life. The 26-year-old freelance journalist and graduate student was a competitive distance runner in college, and even after she graduated, she logged about 50 miles a week. So she initially tried to get back into her running routine about a week after a possible case of COVID-19 in March, doing her best to overcome the malaise that followed her initial allergy-like symptoms. Each time, though, Zimmerman says, “I would be stuck in bed for days with an acute level of extreme fatigue.”
Months later, Zimmerman still had health issues including fatigue, migraines, brain fog, nausea, numbness and sensitivity to screens — a combination of symptoms that led doctors to Diagnosed with prolonged COVID. Although she cannot know for sure, she fears that those exercises early in the recovery process may have worsened her condition.
“I had no idea I should try to rest as much as I needed to,” she says.
Stories like Zimmernan – illness, improvement, exercise, breakdown – are common in them The long world of COVID. And they highlight what many researchers, patients, and advocates say is one of the most powerful tools for managing, and perhaps even preventing, prolonged COVID: comfort.
The only guaranteed way to avoid catching a prolonged COVID is by not getting infected with SARS-CoV-2. But if someone gets sick, “rest is very important to give your body and immune system a chance to fight off an acute infection,” says Dr. Jana Fridley, a post-COVID rehabilitation specialist at the University of Washington who Long recover from COVID itself. “People are kind of struggling with that and they think it’s going to go away in a few days and they’re going to get better, and that doesn’t really work with COVID.”
Researchers are still learning a lot about Long COVID, so it is impossible to say for sure whether rest can really prevent its development – or, conversely, whether premature activity causes complications. But anecdotally, Fridley says that many of the novel coronavirus patients she sees are working women with families rushing back to normal as soon as possible. It’s hard to give one-size-fits-all guidelines on how much rest is adequate, but Fridley recommends anyone recovering from COVID-19 stay away from high-intensity exercise for at least two weeks and avoid stressing out on fatigue.
For people who have already developed prolonged COVID, rest can also be helpful in managing symptoms including fatigue and malaise after exertion (PEM), or accidents following physical, mental or emotional exertion. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend “SpeedAn activity management strategy that includes moderating activity and mixing it with rest to avoid stress and exacerbation of symptoms.
in International Study Published last year, researchers asked more than 3,700 tall travelers about their symptoms. Almost half said they found speed to be at least somewhat helpful for managing symptoms. Meanwhile, when other researchers surveyed about 500 long-distance carriers Study published in April, the vast majority said physical activity exacerbated symptoms, had no effect, or produced mixed results. This may be because long-distance travelers suffer from a defect in their mitochondria, which cells generate energy that can be used, Recent research indicates.
Before the onset of the long COVID, researchers and patients encouraged rest and speed in order to Treating encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Characteristic symptoms of the condition include PEM and serious, prolonged fatigue – diagnostic criteria that many people with prolonged COVID-19 now meet. study Of the more than 200 people with Long COVID published in January they found that 71% had chronic fatigue and nearly 60% experienced PEM.
For years, doctors have tried to treat ME/CFS patients by gradually increasing their levels of physical activity. But since then this practice has been proven Not only ineffective, but often harmful, because people with ME/CFS “have a unique, pathogenic response to excessive stress” due to cellular dysfunction, explains Jaime Seltzer, director of scientific and medical outreach at the MEAction advocacy group. Most people with ME/CFS prefer speed over exercise-based therapy, One study found in 2019.
In order to speed effectively, Seltzer says, people must learn to recognize signals that they are overdoing it and shake off ingrained ideas about productivity. “If you’re doing laundry, for example, there’s nothing that says you have to fold every single piece in one sitting,” she says. Dividing up tasks may seem odd, but it can be necessary to conserve energy.
Friedley says that people with new, prolonged COVID symptoms should keep a record of their diet, activity, sleep and symptoms for two weeks to find out what triggers them. For those who can afford one, a fitness tracker or other wearable device can also be useful in assessing how much overexertion is, Seltzer says. Once a person has an idea of which behaviors improve or worsen symptoms, they can use this information to plan their days and break down activities into manageable parts.
For many people who have tested positive for COVID-19, even taking a few days off work to isolate is a financial and logistical challenge. Many people have no choice but to return to physical tax work or responsibilities such as childcare as quickly as possible. “Rest is definitely advice with social, economic and political weight,” Seltzer says.
People with Long COVID or ME/CFS may be able to protect Accommodation in the workplacesuch as working from home, or taking on a role that can be done sitting rather than standing, or Apply for disability if necessary. Seltzer also suggests relying on friends, religious groups, or mutual aid networks to help out with some tasks. On top of that, Friedley recommends looking for creative ways to use less energy throughout the day. When she was living with long COVID symptoms, she bought several pairs of identical socks so you never have to waste time and effort searching for a match.
Things like this “might seem small,” she says, “but if you add them up throughout the day, it makes a huge difference in terms of how much energy you expend.”
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