Long Covid: Exercise may treat virus-induced diabetes and depression suggests new study

What is long Covid and what are the known symptoms?

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Post-COVID-19 syndrome, or long Covid, occurs when virus symptoms persist for weeks or months after the infection has passed. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, chest tightness, shortness of breath, joint pain, and palpitations. The syndrome can also cause depression and increase blood sugar levels. This makes recovery longer and often results in long-term health threats.

At present, there is no medically recognised cure for long Covid.

A new study, however, has suggested that exercise may treat Covid-induced depression and diabetes.

Long Covid can cause depression and anxiety.

But it also increases blood sugar levels so much that people develop diabetic ketoacidosis, “a potentially life-threatening condition common among people with type 1 diabetes”.

Physical activity is able to break the “vicious cycle of inflammation” that causes these long-term conditions.

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According to Doctor Candida Rebello from Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, physical activity can help.

“Exercise takes care of the inflammation that leads to elevated blood glucose and the development and progression of diabetes and clinical depression.”

“You don’t have to run a mile or even walk a mile at a brisk pace,” Doctor Rebello explained.

Slow walks or light exercise are also good ways to move and break the chain reaction of inflammation.

Researchers said that a 30-minute session of exercise would be ideal to treat long Covid.

When needed, these 30 minutes could be broken down into multiple short sessions throughout the day.

“The important thing is to try,” Doctor Rebello said.

“You can gradually build up to the recommended level of exercise.”

It is not clear how many people are currently suffering from long Covid.

As of February 2022, over 17.9 million people have been tested positive for the virus in the UK.

Of these, it’s been estimated that 1.3 million people have suffered or are suffering from post-COVID-19 syndrome.

“A person may not get very sick from COVID-19, but six months later, long after the cough or fever is gone, they develop diabetes,” researchers said.

Apart from diabetes and depression, long Covid causes a series of debilitating symptoms.

These include brain fog, muscle pain, and fatigue.

“We know that physical activity is a key component to a healthy life,” concluded John Kirwan, Executive Director at Pennington Biomedical.

Some short bursts of exercise could therefore be beneficial for any other symptoms and general health.

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