Physical inactivity linked to more severe Covid-19 infection

A new study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reveals a link between physical inactivity and more severe Covid-19 infection, and a heightened risk of dying from the disease.

The observational study looked at almost 50,000 patients with Covid-19 and linked their self-reported physical activity to their Covid outcomes.

After taking into account the potentially influencing factors such as race, age and underlying medical conditions, the researchers found that patients with Covid-19 who were consistently physically inactive during the two years preceding the pandemic were twice as likely to be admitted to hospital compared to those who clocked up 150-plus minutes of physical activity every week.

Patients who were inactive were also found to be 73% more likely to require intensive care and 2.5 times more likely to die from the infection.

Compared to those patients who reported doing ‘some physical activity’, patients who reported being inactive were 20% more likely to be admitted to hospital, 10% more likely to require intensive care and 32% more likely to die of their infection.

Limitations of the study include the fact that it’s an observational so can’t establish cause; the study relied on self-reported physical activity levels; there was no measure of exercise intensity beyond the threshold of ‘moderate to strenuous exercise’ (such as a brisk walk).

However, the researchers point out that the study is large and includes an ethnically diverse cohort and say:

“It is notable that being consistently inactive was a stronger risk factor for severe Covid-19 outcomes than any of the underlying medical conditions and risk factors identified by [The Centers for Disease Control] except for age and a history of organ transplant.

“In fact, physical inactivity was the strongest risk factor across all outcomes, compared with the commonly cited modifiable risk factors, including smoking, obesity, diabetes, hypertension [high blood pressure], cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

The researchers conclude:

“We recommend that public health authorities inform all populations that short of vaccination and following public health safety guidelines such as social distancing and mask use, engaging in regular [physical activity] may be the single most important action individuals can take to prevent severe Covid-19 and its complications, including death.

“This message is especially important given the increased barriers to achieving regular [physical activity] during lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions.”

So, if there was ever a time to incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, it’s now. To learn about the exercise guidelines and recommendations, visit: exerciseright.com.au/

To read the above study, visit: bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2021/04/07/bjsports-2021-104080

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