As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, a new study has shed light on how healthy lifestyle habits may play a role in reducing the risk of developing long COVID. The study, led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that women who followed most aspects of a healthy lifestyle had about half the risk of long COVID compared to those who did not adopt any healthy lifestyle factors.
“With ongoing waves of COVID-19, long COVID has created a serious public health burden. Our findings raise the possibility that adopting more healthy behaviors may reduce the risk of developing long COVID,” said Andrea Roberts, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and senior author of the study.
What is Long COVID?
Long COVID refers to individuals who continue to experience symptoms of COVID-19 even after four weeks of initial SARS-CoV-2 infection. The symptoms of long COVID can be severe, ranging from fatigue and fever to heart, neurological, and digestive symptoms. It is estimated that between 8 and 23 million Americans suffer from long COVID.
The Study Findings
The study analyzed data from over 32,000 female nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study II who reported on lifestyle in 2015 and 2017 and reported their history of SARS-CoV-2 infection from April 2020 to November 2021. Over 1,900 participants contracted COVID-19, with 44% of them developing long COVID.
Compared to women without any healthy lifestyle factors, those who had five or six healthy lifestyle factors had a 49% lower risk of developing long COVID. The most strongly associated lifestyle factors with reducing the risk of long COVID were maintaining a healthy body weight and getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours daily). The study also found that even among women who developed long COVID, those who had a healthier pre-infection lifestyle had a 30% lower risk of having symptoms that interfered with their daily lives.
The authors of the study noted that an unhealthy lifestyle has been associated with increased risk of chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation, which have been linked to an increased risk of long COVID. The findings suggest that simple lifestyle changes, such as getting adequate sleep, may be beneficial for the prevention of long COVID.
Why Healthy Lifestyle is Good for Overall Health
For decades, scientists have accumulated evidence that a healthy lifestyle is good for overall health and longevity. Unfortunately, many people do not adopt healthy lifestyle habits. In the United States, for example, 70% of the population does not have a healthy body weight, and 30% do not get enough sleep. The study findings suggest that adopting healthy lifestyle habits may not only be beneficial for overall health, but also for reducing the risk of developing long COVID.
The study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that women who adopted a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy body weight, non-smoking, regular exercise, adequate sleep, high-quality diet, and moderate alcohol consumption, had about half the risk of long COVID compared to women without any healthy lifestyle factors. The findings suggest that simple lifestyle changes, such as getting adequate sleep, may be beneficial for reducing the risk of developing long COVID. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is not only good for overall health, but also for reducing the risk of long COVID and other health problems.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.