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If You Want to Protect Against Severe COVID, Try Exercise

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Here is another reason to exercise! Protection against severe COVID-19 disease. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found physical inactivity was associated with severe COVD risk. Do you want to know more? Here is why exercise is a helpful tool for reducing COVID-19 complications.

About the study

We are aware of the determined risk factors for COVID severity are pre-existing conditions and smoking prevalence, but physical inactivity was not looked at until now. The study objectives compared hospitalization rates, ICU admissions, and death for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 and considered physically inactive with those that consistently exercised. Researchers studied 48,000 patients diagnosed from January 2020 to October 2020 and linked their self-reported physical activity into categories.

The three categories are:

  • Consistently inactive=0–10 min/week
  • Some activity=11–149 min/week
  • Consistently meeting guidelines=150+ min/week

Participant breakdown of activity levels:

  • 7% Met physical activity guidelines
  • 78% Some activity
  • 15% inactive

What is the recommended physical activity threshold?

The center of disease control recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week with strength training at least two days. For weight loss benefits, it is recommended to increase cardiovascular activity to 300 minutes a week. The guidelines vary by age, so please look at the full breakdown here.

What is considered inactive?

If you are considered inactive, you do not meet the recommended activity levels. We know that $117 billion in healthcare costs and 10% of premature death is associated with physical inactivity. In addition, 80% of US adults fail to meet the minimum recommendations of physical activity.

The Findings

The study saw strong associations with physical inactivity and severe COVID-19 outcomes, including death. In fact, it was the strongest association over pre-existing conditions or smoking. The only risk factor more substantial was organ transplant history and advanced age. When looking at the statistics of inactivity amongst the study participants, people considered inactive were 73% more likely to require intensive care, twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital, and 2.5 times more likely to die than those who met minimum physical activity guidelines.

Some activity is better than none.

If you look at the numbers, 78% of the participants fall into some activity category, and it turns out it still has positive outcomes. People who performed some activity below the recommended level still had a reduced risk of severe COVID-19 development with 20% less likely to be admitted to the hospital, 10% less likely for intensive care, and 32% less likely to die from COVID than physically inactive individuals.

Things to consider

It is important to note that the researchers came to these conclusions by accounting for variables like race, age, and underlying conditions. Because this was an ethically diverse study group, it helps to bring an even stronger correlation to the role physical activity plays in reducing the risk of severe complications for viruses like COVID-19. Public health officials must emphasize the role physical activity plays in many health outcomes and offer it as a recommendation for preventative measures.

In addition, it is essential to emphasize that physical activity should not be used as a replacement for other measures, including social distancing, vaccination, and mask-wearing. Physical activity should be used in conjunction with all recommended actions to serve as the best protection against COVID.

Make a case for exercise.

We know we need to do better with getting the recommended guidelines of physical activity. Hopefully, you see that making time to exercise is not just a suggestion; it is a necessary life-sustaining resource. If you do not participate in regular physical activity, it’s essential to ease your way into it. Just a small amount each day can make a world of difference.

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