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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 29, 2023  1 month, 3 weeks, 2 days, 9 hours, 54 minutes ago

COVID-19 News: Norwegian Scientists In A 3-Year Follow-Up Study Finds That COVID-19 Pandemic Had Led To Decreased Cardiorespiratory Fitness!

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COVID-19 News: Norwegian Scientists In A 3-Year Follow-Up Study Finds That COVID-19 Pandemic Had Led To Decreased Cardiorespiratory Fitness!
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 29, 2023  1 month, 3 weeks, 2 days, 9 hours, 54 minutes ago
COVID-19 News: As the world grappled with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it became increasingly clear that the effects extended beyond immediate health concerns. A closer look at the aftermath reveals a complex interplay between societal restrictions and individual well-being. A recent study covered in this COVID-19 News report conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI), Oslo, Norway, and the School of Health Sciences, Kristiania University College, Oslo, delves into the profound implications of the pandemic on the cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) of industrial workers. This three-year follow-up (FU) study seeks to shed light on the nuanced changes in maximal oxygen uptake (V˙V˙O2max), resting heart rate (RHR), and self-reported leisure-time moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among industrial workers during a period marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding the Context
The COVID-19 pandemic, characterized by the emergence of a SARS-related virus in China in December 2019, triggered a series of global responses aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Norway, like many other nations, implemented strict measures to safeguard public health. The study timeline reveals that the Norwegian society experienced a shutdown in mid-March 2020, followed by a gradual reopening from May 2020 to mid-July 2020. However, the resilience of the virus prompted another round of closures from September 2020 to January 2021. The nation witnessed a decline in infections from January to June 2021, leading to a return to normalcy by the end of September 2021. Nevertheless, the detection of the Omicron mutation in December 2021 prompted new restrictions until February 2022.
Impacts on Physical Activity and Health
The pandemic, characterized by long-lasting lockdowns and movement restrictions, raised concerns about its potential impact on individuals' health and CRF. While lockdowns may have spurred interest in home-based exercise, closures of fitness facilities and restrictions on group outdoor activities presented challenges to maintaining physical activity levels. The consequences of reduced physical activity are well-documented, as a sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased risks of chronic diseases and mortality.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Its Importance
CRF, defined as the capacity of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscle mitochondria for energy production during physical activity, is a critical determinant of overall health. Maximal oxygen uptake (V˙V˙O2max) is considered the gold standard for measuring CRF. Not only is V˙V˙O2max a marker of longevity, but it is also a strong predictor of all-cause and disease-specific mortality. Even small amounts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) have been shown to improve peak oxygen consumption (V˙V˙Opeak) and yield substantial health benefits.
Previous Cohort Findings
The study builds upon previous research that explored the association between shift work in the industry and its impact on arteries and systemic inflammation, potentially increasing t he risk for future cardiovascular disease. This subset study specifically focuses on the potential changes in V˙V˙O2max, RHR, and self-reported leisure-time MVPA over a 3-year follow-up in the same cohort of industrial workers. The study hypothesized that the restrictions on outdoor movement and prolonged closures of fitness centers during the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to reduced leisure-time MVPA, negatively affecting the measured health outcomes.
Detailed Analysis of Results
Examining the demographic characteristics of the study population, the study found no significant differences in body mass index (BMI) or fat mass during the 3-year follow-up. However, participants reported a lower degree of MVPA at FU compared to baseline (BL). The study then delved into the changes in V˙V˙O2max, noting a substantial decrease from 39.6 mL/kg/min at BL to 34.0 at FU, indicating a reduction of 5.6 mL/kg/min. Adjusting for actual age, the annual loss of V˙V˙O2max was estimated to be 4.6%. RHR increased significantly from 61.3 to 64.4 beats per minute over the 3-year period, while self-reported MVPA decreased by 43.9 minutes per week.
Interpreting the Findings
The reduction in V˙V˙O2max surpassed what would be expected due to aging, suggesting a substantial impact of external factors, particularly the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the participants' V˙V˙O2max values at BL were within the normal range for a comparable healthy Norwegian population, the annual reduction of 4.6% indicated a noteworthy decline. The increase in RHR poses additional concerns, as it is associated with elevated risks of cardiovascular events. Despite the stability in BMI and fat mass, the decrease in self-reported MVPA implies potential adverse effects on overall health.
The Role of Leisure-Time MVPA
The study underscores the importance of leisure-time MVPA in maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness. While workers continued their regular duties at the plant, the decrease in self-reported MVPA during FU is attributed to external circumstances, particularly the restrictions imposed during the latter phase of the study coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure of fitness centers and limitations on outdoor activities likely contributed to the observed decline in physical activity levels.
Strengths and Limitations
The study's strengths include its prospective design, consistent measurements, and the examination of key health indicators. However, limitations such as a relatively small sample size for V˙V˙O2max testing, self-reported MVPA, and the absence of specific registration for long COVID should be acknowledged. Despite these limitations, the findings offer valuable insights into the broader implications of the pandemic on industrial workers' health.
In conclusion, the 3-year follow-up study illuminates a concerning decline in cardiorespiratory fitness among industrial workers, primarily attributed to reduced leisure-time MVPA during the COVID-19 pandemic. The comprehensive analysis of V˙V˙O2max, RHR, and self-reported MVPA provides a nuanced understanding of the long-term consequences of the pandemic on the health of industrial workers. As societies strive to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, prioritizing initiatives to enhance physical activity and cardiovascular health becomes imperative for mitigating potential long-term health consequences.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease.
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