Bournemouth University: New trial to explore whether personalised health plans can help people with long COVID

Researchers at Bournemouth University are looking for volunteers from Dorset and The South for a trial aimed at helping people with long term symptoms of COVID-19.

The research team are looking to recruit people over the age of 18 who are still experiencing symptoms twelve weeks after a positive COVID-19 test. The trial will explore whether personalised advice about their health and lifestyle could help them regain certain day-to-day activities more quickly, compared to existing Government guidance.

Post-COVID-19 syndrome, also known as long-COVID, is associated with a variety of symptoms ranging in severity, frequency and time. The most debilitating symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction, which are often compounded by a sedentary lifestyle. According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, it currently affects 1.8 million people in the UK.

Participants in the trial will be asked to attend two face-to-face assessments at a Bournemouth University laboratory over a nine-week period. These sessions will include physical and questionnaire-based assessments. After the first session, they will be allocated into one of two groups. The first group will receive a personalised health behaviour plan, the other group will be advised of the Government’s ‘Your COVID recovery’ programme.

“At the moment, there is a lack of long-term support for people with symptoms of post-COVID-19,” explained Dr Matthew Armstrong, Academic Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at Bournemouth University, who is leading the trial.

Dr Armstrong added, “Due to its complexity and a high number of reports that mental and physical exertion can trigger the relapse of symptoms, typical rehabilitation approaches may not be suitable to every individual.

“Therefore, we want people in the local area to help us find out if providing personalised health behaviour tips could be safe and effective at regaining certain day-to-day activities and whether this can positively impact the physical and psychological symptoms of the condition.”

Those allocated to the personalised health behaviour programme will be asked to keep a diary for eight weeks to record their daily activities and how they are affected by long-COVID. They will also have weekly online sessions with a member of the research team to provide advice on how they could change their behaviours to improve their health.

At the end of the eight-weeks, participants will be asked to carry out a series of tests to measure their physical capacity, muscular function, cognitive function and other symptoms. These will then be compared to the results of the assessments they took at the start.

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