Effect of Physical Exercise-Based Rehabilitation on Long COVID: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Chen Zheng, Xiang Ke Chen, Cindy Hui Ping Sit, Xiao Liang, Ming Hui Li, Alvin Chun Hang Ma, Stephen Heung Sang Wong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose The number of persons living with post-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) conditions or long COVID continues to rise worldwide; however, the etiology and the treatment of long COVID remain nebulous. Therefore, efficient, feasible, and cost-effective therapeutic strategies for a large population with long COVID remain warranted. Physical exercise-based rehabilitation is a promising strategy for long COVID, although its therapeutic effects remain to be determined. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to examine the effects of physical exercise-based rehabilitation on long COVID. Methods The electronic databases Medline, Embase, Global Health (Ovid), CINAHL (EBSCO), Web of Science, WHO Global Research Database on COVID-19, LitCovid, and Google Scholar were searched from their inception to November 2022. The identified articles were independently screened by three reviewers, and a random-effects model was used to determine the mean differences in the meta-analysis. Results Twenty-three studies involving 1579 individuals who had COVID-19 (752 women) were included. Physical exercise-based rehabilitation showed beneficial effects on long COVID-related symptoms characterized by dyspnea, fatigue, and depression, as well as on the 6-min walk test, forced expiratory volume in 1 s/forced vital capacity, and quality of life in people who had COVID-19. Conclusions Physical exercise-based rehabilitation is a potential therapeutic strategy against long COVID and can be applied as a routine clinical practice in people who have recovered from COVID-19. However, customized physical exercise-based rehabilitation programs and their effects on specific types of long COVID require future large-scale studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • 6-MWT
  • COVID-19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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