Using cardiorespiratory fitness assessment to identify pathophysiology in long COVID – Best practice approaches.

Faghy MA; University of Derby, Derby, UK;  & Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK. &  Illinois Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Dalton C; Duncan R; Arena R; Ashton REM;

Progress in cardiovascular diseases [Prog Cardiovasc Dis] 2024 Feb 26.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2024 Feb 26.

Cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF) is well-established in the clinical domains as an integrative measure of the body’s physiological capability and capacity to transport and utilise oxygen during controlled bouts of physical exertion. Long COVID is associated with >200 different symptoms and is estimated to affect ~150 million people worldwide. The most widely reported impact is reduced quality of life and functional status due to highly sensitive and cyclical symptoms that manifest and are augmented following exposure to physical, emotional, orthostatic, and cognitive stimuli, more commonly known as post-exertional symptom exacerbation (PESE) which prevents millions from engaging in routine daily activities. The use of cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) is commonplace in the assessment of integrated physiology; CPET will undoubtedly play an integral role in furthering the pathophysiology and mechanistic knowledge that will inform bespoke Long COVID treatment and management strategies. An inherent risk of previous attempts to utilise CPET protocols in patients with chronic disease is that these are compounded by PESE and have induced a worsening of symptoms for patients that can last for days or weeks. To do this effectively and to meet the global need, the complex multi-system pathophysiology of Long COVID must be considered to ensure the design and implementation of research that is both safe for participants and capable of advancing mechanistic understanding.