Less Physically Active People Have Higher Risk of Severe COVID-19 Outcomes, Per Study

People who were physically inactive prior to getting COVID-19 had worse outcomes than those who met the recommended physical activity guidelines and even those who didn’t meet those guidelines but were somewhat active.(Photo by urbazon/iStock/Getty Images.)

People diagnosed with COVID-19 who have been less physically active prior to getting COVID-19 have a higher risk of severe outcomes from the virus than those who are regularly physically active, according to a new study.

The study, “Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients,” was published April 13 in the British Journal of Medicine. It looked at hospitalization rates, intensive care unit admissions and mortality for 48,440 adults diagnosed with COVID-19 between Jan. 1, 2020, and Oct. 21, 2020. It reviewed which patients were consistently inactive (14.4 percent), doing some activity (79.1 percent) or consistently meeting physical activity guidelines (6.4 percent) prior to their diagnosis.

The patients who were consistently inactive were 226 percent more likely to be hospitalized, 173 percent more likely to be admitted to the ICU and 149 percent more likely to die than patients who were consistently meeting physical activity guidelines, according to the research. The consistently inactive group also had worse outcomes than those who got some physical activity.  They were 120 percent more likely to be hospitalize, 110 percent more likely to be admitted to the ICU and 132 percent more likely to die than people who did some physical activity.

The authors concluded: “Consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes among infected adults. We recommend efforts to promote physical activity be prioritized by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care.”

A Henry Ford Health System study published in the January issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that people who are in better aerobic shape are less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

A May 2020 study of 387,109 adults in the United Kingdom also found that the more physically active a person was, the less severe their complications were from COVID-19.

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and as part of that, the Physical Activity Alliance, working with Myzone, has launched a Congressional Physical Activity Challenge in which members of the U.S. Congress and their staff are encouraged to get active to help show the importance of making movement more fun, accessible and inclusive.  

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