Skip to content

The Terrifying Effect COVID Can Have on Your Fitness, Science Says

You may not be able to move like you used to.
mature woman working out with dumbbells

You may know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for causing COVID-19, can do some serious damage, even months after you've recovered from the worst of the symptoms.

Post-acute COVID Syndrome, also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), can result in lasting fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain, and more for the so-called "long haulers" who continue to experience symptoms after they recover from the virus. (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now).

Now, a new study has bad news for people who have recovered from the virus. As it turns out, the virus can rapidly age you, at least, when it comes to your fitness levels. Researchers at the Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel found that recovered patients with an average age of 45 showed the fitness levels of an 80-year-old, according to the Times of Israel.

A test that measured the distance these recovered patients could walk in six minutes found that they could only walk 450 meters (a little more than one lap around a track), compared to the 700 meters (about 1.75 laps around the track) covered in that time by healthy adults in the same age group. Participants were also asked to spend half a minute repeatedly standing up and sitting down.

The average recovered COVID patient was only able to stand 14 times in that length of time, which is less than half what their never-infected counterparts are able to do. As the study's researchers told the Jerusalem Post, this decline in fitness can be seen in daily life in a number of ways—difficulty breathing, muscle pain, and heart issues, among others.

For those who have not contracted the virus, these findings are just another reason to stay vigilant, following safety precautions to the best of your ability. The good news for those who have had the virus? This study only looked at 30 participants, a small sample size, and it only measured three months after recovery—there's no way of knowing yet how recovery will play out long-term.

For more, be sure to check out Dangerous Side Effects of Low-Carb Diets, According to Experts.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more