Researchers say people over age 50 appear to have mobility and functioning issues after even mild cases of COVID-19.
Doctors interviewed by Healthline said they have seen a loss of mobility and functioning in older people that goes beyond the natural declines seen with aging. These issues include the ability to engage in physical activity, as well as muscle aches and brain fog.
Experts say it’s important for older adults to make sure they get enough sleep, eat healthy, and participate in daily physical activity whether they’ve had COVID-19 or not. New researchTrusted Source published this week suggests that even a mild case of COVID-19 can have a long-term effect on movement and functioning in older adults. Scientists from Canada’s Longitudinal Study on Aging looked at 24,114 community-living middle-aged and older adults with confirmed, probable, or suspected COVID-19.
The researchers say they found that nearly twice as many subjects who had COVID-19 experienced higher odds of worsening mobility and physical functions, compared with adults who didn’t have COVID-19. Most participants with COVID-19 had mild to moderate illness and were not hospitalized, suggesting that those effects can linger even after the virus has seemingly run its course.
“These findings suggest that interventions may be needed for individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization,” the study authors wrote. Of the initial group of people studied, almost 42 percent were aged 65 or older, and 51 percent were women. Their mobility in three physical areas was examined: standing up after sitting in a chair, engaging in housework, and general physical activity.
“We are seeing that many people are having significant challenges with aerobic activity,” Dr. Mill Etienne, an associate professor of neurology at New York Medical College and the president of the New York State Neurological Society, told Healthline. “Interestingly, they may be able to do other strenuous activity like lifting a heavy weight, but the aerobic activity poses [a] significant challenge. So, they may have trouble walking a few blocks, climbing the stairs, or riding a bicycle,” he added.
Etienne said this loss of mobility isn’t just the natural decline of getting older. “The easy fatiguability and inability to tolerate aerobic activity is out of proportion to what we would expect for the person’s age,” he said. “Especially given that they are often still able to complete other forms of exercise.”