We’ve known for a while that exercise is good for our immune system. Active individuals are less susceptible to viral infections and inflammation.
A recent study looked at how COVID-19 affected adults based on their pre-existing levels of physical activity.
The study included 48,400 adults in Southern California that tested positive for COVID-19. The patients were assigned to one of three groups based on how much exercise they got each week. The first group would get 150 minutes, or more, of exercise each week. The second group was inactive and got from zero to ten minutes of exercise per week. And the last group was right in the middle getting between 11 and 149 minutes of exercise per week.
Each group was then tracked based on whether they were hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit or died.
What they found was that the individuals getting no exercise, i.e. 10 minutes or less, were 2.26 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to the group getting the most exercise. And for those in the middle group of exercise, i.e. 11-149 minutes, they were 1.89 times more likely to be hospitalized than those getting at least 150 minutes per week.
So that does 150 minutes of exercise per week look like? This is 30 minutes per day on weekdays. This would be similar to going for a run over the lunch hour for half an hour. Of the 48, 440 patients that tested positive for COVID-19, only 6.4% got this much exercise. 14.4% of patients did no exercise, or up to 10 minutes, each week. This leaves about almost 80% of patients that get 11-149 minutes of exercise per week.
Perhaps the most interesting finding of this study was the fact that physical inactivity was strongest risk factor with how severe COVID-19 would affect the individual. Physical inactivity is a greater risk factor than smoking, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cancer.
This should be a wake up call to anyone that wants the pandemic to be over and to get back to what life used to like. If we want to see fewer hospitalizations, admittances to the ICU and deaths to the ICU we need to make sure we achieve a minimum level of physical activity i.e. at least 30 minutes per day.
Sallis, R., Young, D. R., Tartof, S. Y., Sallis, J. F., Sall, J., Li, Q., & Cohen, D. A. (2021). Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients. British journal of sports medicine.