Can Exercise Make Severe COVID-19 Outcomes Less Likely?

by | May 4, 2021 | Exercise

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Study researchers note that persons who are regularly active have lower rates of viral infections of all sorts and are less likely to have severe consequences if they do get them.

A study of nearly 50,000 adult patients diagnosed with COVID-19, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that those who were physically inactive had greater risk of hospitalization and admission to intensive care units.

The subjects of the research were members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, where it’s a routine practice for members to be asked about their exercise habits during outpatient visits. The researchers looked back at records of visits between March 2018 and March 2020 to establish long-term physical activity habits.

How much exercise is enough for adults? The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, which can include such things as brisk walking, bicycling slowly or even general yard work. It’s been estimated that Americans have an average of 4-6 hours of leisure time each day, generally spending this time in sedentary activities.

The standard of 150 minutes is a baseline. “As a person moves from 150 minutes a week toward 300 minutes a week, the health benefits become more extensive,” say the guidelines. “For example, a person who does 300 minutes a week has an even lower risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes than a person who does 150 minutes a week.”

The authors of the COVID study note that persons who are regularly active have lower rates of viral infections of all sorts and are less likely to have severe consequences if they do get them. Exercise can improve immune response, they say, reduce systemic inflammation that can contribute to lung damage from COVID-19, improve heart function, increase lung capacity and muscle strength and improve mental health.

“This is a wake-up call for the importance of healthy lifestyles and especially physical activity,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Robert Sallis, told Forbes. “People who regularly exercise had the best chance of beating COVID-19, while people who were inactive did much worse.”

“Exercise is medicine that everyone should take — especially in this era of COVID-19,” said Dr. Sallis in announcing his findings. “Walk 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week at a moderate pace and that will give you a tremendous protective effect against COVID-19.”

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

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The Fundamentals of Health Alliance works to publish useful and reliable information about nutrition and health. Their mission is to empower readers to be informed with honest, non-biased information about food, nutrition and the vital components of health.

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