Long Covid’s detrimental effect on energy and activity levels is being examined by University of the West of Scotland researchers in a bid to help improve extreme fatigue symptoms linked with the condition.

The study, which is part of a new cohort of 15 projects totalling nearly £20 million funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will involve activity tracking to help those with Long Covid who are reporting low energy levels after undertaking day-to-day tasks.

Using a technique called adaptive pacing therapy – commonly used to treat those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – researchers at UWS will send ‘just-in-time’ notifications to individuals’ mobile devices when they are at risk of overexertion, in order to help alleviate symptoms and aid their long-term recovery.

The announcement comes just after the First Minister addressed Long Covid as an increasing concern, particularly amongst younger people, in her latest statement to the Scottish Parliament.

The study is the second Long Covid-related research project underway at UWS, following the announcement in February that the University would be leading a project tracking and identifying trends in persistent Long Covid symptoms.

Research lead and expert in clinical exercise physiology at UWS, Professor Nicholas Sculthorpe, said: “Long Covid symptoms change regularly, often getting worse after certain activities. Adaptive pacing is a way for people who experience these symptoms to better manage their day-to-day tasks. In order to be effective, adaptive pacing therapy needs people to continuously track their daily activities and balance what they plan to do, with how much energy they feel they have. But it’s not always easy as the amount of activity that’ll cause symptoms to get worse for one person may be different for another.

“With help from people with Long Covid, this project aims to make adaptive pacing easier for people to use. Using technology developed by UWS, we will track activity for individuals from their Fitbits and send them alerts if they risk doing too much. The aim is to help those with Long Covid better plan their daily activities and prevent periods where symptoms become worse. Over time, we’ll look for ways to scale up the process to help more people.”

Long Covid is a terrible illness affecting thousands of people across the UK, and as it’s such a new disease, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. This UK Government funding, which is supporting studies led by the University of Glasgow and University of the West of Scotland, will help us make progress in understanding Long Covid and hopefully improve treatment and support for patients right across the UK.

UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart

The projects funded by the NIHR include the largest Long Covid trial to date, which will involve more than 4,500 people, and will help to understand the symptoms affecting Long Covid patients and assess the most effective drug treatments and rehabilitation methods to help people return to their daily lives.

Jane Ormerod, who has Long Covid and is a member of Long Covid Scotland, said: “With this collaboration between UWS and LongCovid (LC) Scotland, we hope to help people coping with LC to be able to manage their day-to-day energy and activity levels. We also hope they have fewer bouts of exhaustion and reoccurring symptoms. We don’t know if it will help people recover more quickly, but in the short term this should make coping with the condition easier.”