COVID-19 – does exercise prescription and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) have a role in risk-stratifying patients?

30 Apr, 2020

As the UK shields ‘high risk’ patients and enforces social distancing measures, patients will be at risk of significantly reducing physical activity levels. We explore the evidence base for COVID-19-specific recommendations and exercise interventions to ‘precondition’ patients prior to infection and appraise the role of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) as a risk-stratifying triage tool. We conclude that structured exercise programmes can be used to maintain physical activity levels and prevent deconditioning and that VO2 max has the potential to be used as a clinically relevant triage tool during the COVID-19 outbreak.


Maintaining physical activity levels during the COVID-19 outbreak will have significant physical health benefits to all patients. Further data will be needed to evaluate the role of exercise in ‘preconditioning’ patients prior to infection. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), where available, has the potential to be used as part of existing ‘triage’ criteria to help risk stratify patients.