By Chris Dodd
The Hertfordshire Sports Partnership (HSP) is set to revolutionise the recovery journey for individuals with Long-COVID through an innovative project that explores the profound benefits of physical activity. With funding from Public Health within Hertfordshire County Council, the “Physical Activity for Health and Wellbeing” project aims to strengthen community-based physical activity opportunities, providing much-needed support to those living with Long-COVID symptoms. By introducing tailored and graded physical activity sessions, the project team aspires to enhance both the physical and mental wellbeing of those affected.
Long-COVID has presented a myriad of challenges for patients, both physically and mentally. In response, the project team will collaborate with the COVID-19 Rehabilitation Services, alleviating pressure on their resources while gaining a deeper understanding of the referral process for individuals with Long-COVID. Drawing upon insights from a qualitative study published in BMJ Open by Humphreys, Kilby, Kudiersky, and Copeland in 2021, which shed light on the lack of clear guidance regarding physical activity for alleviating Long-COVID symptoms, the project aims to increase awareness and signposting of available provisions.
Sarah Keen, the project lead, highlighted the objectives of this groundbreaking initiative, stating, “Our project aims to bridge the existing gaps in provision and raise awareness of suitable physical activity opportunities for those living with Long-COVID. By establishing a physical activity signposting service, we aim to improve affected individuals’ recovery journey and overall wellbeing.”
The project’s goals encompass various aspects, including enhancing the uptake of physical activity opportunities among Long-COVID patients, fostering cross-sector knowledge about the benefits of physical activity for Long-COVID recovery, and promoting inclusivity within the local physical activity sector. Additionally, the project aims to forge stronger connections between the healthcare system and the local physical activity infrastructure while encouraging self-advocacy and self-management of symptoms.
By collaborating with existing physical activity providers, the project team ensures that only individuals “signed off” will be referred to the program. Each session will be tailored to the patient’s needs and pace, ensuring a safe and appropriate approach to physical activity. Moreover, the team will develop new physical activity opportunities specifically designed for Long-COVID patients, offering various activities suitable for individuals with varying abilities. As a triage agent, the team will evaluate the suitability of physical activities for Long-COVID patients, directing them to appropriate physical activity provisions in Hertfordshire.
This pioneering project perfectly aligns with HSP’s strategic objectives, particularly in Community Sports and Physical Activity, Covid Recovery, Physical Activity for Health and Wellbeing, Sport for Social Change, Stronger Communities, and Active Environments. By enhancing the physical activity outcomes for Long-COVID patients, the project aims to uplift individual wellbeing, bolster community resilience, and drive social change.
To achieve these positive changes, the project will focus on developing a skilled and inclusive workforce within the physical activity sector. Leveraging insights gained from in-depth research, evidence-based decisions will be made, fostering system-wide changes. Furthermore, the project will embrace technology and innovation, utilizing online platforms to enhance workforce skills, collect participant feedback, and explore new avenues to achieve strategic objectives.
The “Physical Activity for Health and Wellbeing” project is a testament to HSP’s commitment to improving the recovery process for Long-COVID patients while emphasising the significance of physical activity in attaining overall wellbeing. By strengthening the connections between healthcare professionals, physical activity providers, and affected individuals, HSP aims to significantly impact the lives of those living with Long-COVID.