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Home-based respiratory muscle training on quality of life and exercise tolerance in long-term post-COVID-19: Randomized controlled trial.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of a home-based respiratory muscle training programme (inspiratory [IMT] or inspiratory/expiratory muscles [RMT]) supervised by telerehabilitation on quality of life and exercise tolerance in individuals with long-term post-COVID-19 symptoms. The secondary objective was to evaluate the effects of these programmes on respiratory muscle function, physical and lung function, and psychological state.

METHODS: 88 individuals with long-term symptoms of fatigue and dyspnoea after COVID-19 diagnosis were randomly (1:1 ratio) assigned to IMT, IMTsham , RMT or RMTsham groups for an 8-week intervention (40min/day, 6 times/week). Primary outcomes were quality of life (EuroQol-5D questionnaire) and exercise tolerance (Ruffier test). Secondary outcomes were respiratory muscle function (inspiratory/expiratory muscle strength; inspiratory muscle endurance), physical function (lower and upper limb strength [1-min Sit-to-Stand and handgrip force]), lung function (forced spirometry), and psychological status (anxiety/depression levels and post-traumatic stress disorder). All outcomes were measured pre-, intermediate- (4th week), and post-intervention.

RESULTS: At post-intervention, there was a statistically significant and large (d>0.90) improvement in quality of life, but not in exercise tolerance, in the RMT group compared with the RMTsham group. Both of the real training groups produced a statistically significant and large increase in inspiratory muscle strength and endurance (d≥0.80) and in lower limb muscle strength (d≥0.77) compared with the 2 sham groups. Expiratory muscle strength and peak expiratory flow showed a statistically significant and large (d≥0.87) increase in the RMT group compared with the other 3 groups.

CONCLUSION: Only an 8-week supervised home-based RMT programme was effective in improving quality of life, but not exercise tolerance, in individuals with long-term post-COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, IMT and RMT programmes were effective in improving respiratory muscle function and lower limb muscle strength, but had no impact on lung function and psychological status.

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