Inactivity associated with much higher chances of severe COVID-19 illness: Study

People who exercised regularly and then tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 had much lower chances of severe illness than individuals who are not physically active, a new study shows. 

The study found that COVID-19 patients who were “consistently inactive” were 225% more likely to be hospitalized, 173% more likely to end up in an intensive care unit and 249% more likely to die than people who exercised 150 minutes or more each week. 

“We strongly believe the results of this study represent a clear and actionable guideline that can be used by populations around the world to reduce the risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, including death,” study author Deborah Rohm Young told Medscape Medical News.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California, was published online April 13 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. It included 48,440 adult patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis from January to October 2020 with at least three outpatient visits with an exercise vital sign measure between March 2018 and March 2020. 

Patients who reported exercising 150 minutes or more each week were considered regularly physically active while those who exercised 10 minutes or less each week were deemed as consistently inactive. Those who got in 11 to 149 minutes of exercise each week were considered somewhat active. 

The study also found that inactive COVID-19 patients were 120% more likely to require hospitalization, 110% more likely to need critical care admission and 132% more likely to die compared with people who said they exercised 11 to 149 minutes each week. 

Patients who were somewhat active had a 188% greater chance of dying, 158% higher chance for ICU admission and 189% increased odds of hospitalization than those who exercised 150 minutes or more each week, according to the study. 

Regular exercise can improve immune function, cardiovascular and muscle function and lung capacity, study author Deborah Young told MedScape, which could explain the lower chances of severe illness from COVID-19 among those who are physically active.

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