ESSA releases new COVID-19 guidelines for clinical care

Friday 11 November 2022

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has launched new treatment guidelines for people who are recovering after COVID, called ‘Safe Exercise Across the Clinical Course of COVID-19’.

The guidelines have been designed from the practitioner’s perspective, to provide exercise physiologist guidance regarding the treatment of people who have contracted COVID-19, and the practicum environment where supervisors oversee the activities of students working with those who have had the virus.

ESSA CEO Anita Hobson-Powell said the risk to the local and global community from COVID-19 remained. 

“While COVID-19 is regarded as a respiratory disease, various cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal, and endocrinological changes have all been observed with COVID-19, which may impact on clinical exercise prescription and delivery,” Hobson-Powell said.

“ESSA’s COVID-19 guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for physical activity and exercise-based interventions for people who have contracted COVID-19 and may be impacted by the array of side effects from the virus.

“We know that people’s ongoing COVID-19 symptoms vary and will impact on what exercise can be undertaken as well as how individuals will respond to exercise-based interventions.

“There is no one-size fits all approach but the guidelines provide evidence based recommendations to support clinical decision making by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP).”

Co-author of the new guidelines, AEP and Lecturer in Clinical Exercise Physiology at the University of Newcastle, Hayley Lewthwaite, said returning to physical activity after COVID-19 could be a daunting experience, particularly for those with ongoing symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and breathlessness.

“Many people don’t know when or how to start physical activity after contracting COVID-19, how to progress physical activity levels and intensity, or what to do if physical activity exacerbates their symptoms,” she explained.

“Accredited Exercise Physiologists are best placed to support a safe return to physical activity and these guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for how to do so.”

AEPs are university qualified allied health professionals equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies to design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise interventions for people with acute, sub-acute or chronic medical conditions, injuries or disabilities. 

They treat cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, cancers, kidney, respiratory / pulmonary and mental health issues, and any other conditions for which there is evidence that exercise can improve the client’s clinical status.

AEPs work in environments which include:

  • Public and private hospitals settings

  • Primary, secondary and tertiary health care

  • Within private and multidisciplinary clinics

  • Population health

  • Workplace health and rehabilitation

  • Ageing and aged care

  • Fitness centres, gymnasiums, business

  • Sporting settings 

The new guidelines and accompanying case studies were developed in collaboration between Exercise & Sports Science Australia and a team of authors led by Sydney Local Health District (Sydney) and The University of Newcastle (Newcastle) supported by authors from Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute (Melbourne), La Trobe University (Melbourne), The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Adelaide), The University of Newcastle (Newcastle) and the University of South Australia (Adelaide). 

“A real strength of the guidelines is the diverse expertise of the authorship team,” Hayley Lewthwaite added.

“Contributing to the guidelines were clinicians and academics with expertise in mental health and hotel quarantine, inpatient hospital care, cardiac rehabilitation, vascular health, fatigue and post exertional malaise, and respiratory medicine.”

“The recommendations may be updated in the future, as we learn more about how COVID-19 affects specific populations and bodily systems, as well as how new strains of COVID-19, vaccines, and other COVID-19 management strategies impact the overall clinical management of COVID-19,” Anita Hobson-Powell said.

To view the guidelines and associated case studies, visit:


Want a comment on a range of health and exercise topics?

Visit Our Newsroom