Did mild COVID zap your ability to exercise?

COVID long-haulers live with a laundry list of symptoms ranging from heart palpitations and shortness of breath to brain fog and joint and muscle pain.

It’s a phenomenon that some researchers have tied to microscopic blood clots.

Yet, that answer might not present a full picture of why long COVID is so debilitating — especially when it comes to one of the main symptoms long-haulers experience — extreme fatigue following exercise.

Luckily, researchers in Amsterdam have filled in the blanks as to why so many experience a severe worsening of symptoms for weeks after a single round of exercise…

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Even mild COVID zapped their ability to exercise

Researchers focused on 25 patients with long COVID who reported experiencing extreme fatigue after exercising, compared to 21 people who made a full recovery with no ill effects from the virus.

It’s important to note that none of the participants had been hospitalized — meaning their bouts with the virus were likely mild. And prior to catching the virus, all had been fit and healthy adults.

They asked each participant to ride an exercise bike for about 10-15 minutes. The researchers also took blood samples and skeletal muscle biopsies a week before and the day after the exercise session.

Overall, they discovered that those with long COVID had a much lower capacity for exercise than their healthy counterparts.

However, it’s when they got down to the nitty gritty that the reasons why became clear…

  • Muscle biopsies taken before exercise showed that people with long COVID had a much higher amount of white fibers in their muscle tissue than those without the condition.
  • Those white fibers equated to fewer power-producing mitochondria and less blood flow in their muscle.
  • Additionally, the researchers also saw indications that the mitochondria in people with long Covid did not work as well as those in healthy participants.

According to the researchers, this could explain why COVID long-haulers have a lowered exercise capacity — and why their biopsies following exercise showed far more tissue damage and signs of the body trying to repair itself.

“That can explain, for instance, the muscle pain that these patients are experiencing after exercise,” said Dr. Rob Wüst, an author of the study.

“It damages your muscles, it worsens your metabolism, and it can explain why you feel muscle pain and fatigue up to weeks after the exercise,” he said.

Altogether, he concluded that people living with long COVID should avoid intense exercise.

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Supporting mitochondria

This wasn’t the first time that long COVID has been linked to mitochondrial issues.

Unfortunately, there are no highly effective treatments for mitochondrial disorders. Most are genetic, but some conditions that have been previously found to lead to secondary mitochondria dysfunction include Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

The functional medicine approach includes nutritional interventions, supplementation and lifestyle factors such as stress management and improving sleep to mitigate symptoms.

Luckily, two powerful nutrients – CoQ10 and Pyrroloquinoline quinone or PQQ — have been researched for their effects on supporting mitochondria.

CoQ10 is a link in the chain of chemical reactions that allow mitochondria to produce energy. And PQQ has been shown to raise mitochondrial activity in both animal and human studies.

As well, The Mitochondrial Medicine Society supports the use of CoQ10, based on trial results, along with other antioxidants.

So if you’ve had a COVID infection and find you just can’t exercise like you once did, or at all, don’t be hard on yourself. There’s a reason.

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Long Covid causes changes in body that make exercise debilitating – study – The Guardian

A Modern Approach to the Treatment of Mitochondrial Disease — Current Treatment Options in Neurology

Mitochondrial Diseases — Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.