Physical Activity & Severe COVID – Science Reveals the link

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The article Physical Activity & Severe COVID – Science Reveals the link has been scientifically fact-checked and all relevant references to the claims are through peer-reviewed journals, scholarly work, and research papers. All medical and scientific references have been mentioned in the references section. The article follows the editorial guidelines and policy of WYF. Recommendations made in Physical Activity & Severe COVID – Science Reveals the link are meant to be general guidelines. In case you have any medical conditions, consult your doctor.

The association between physical activity or fitness and adverse outcomes for patients infected with COVID-19 has now been studied in more than 25 studies. A persistently inactive patient was more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to intensive care, and die than a patient who engaged in any activity or was continuously active.

The consistent association between regular physical activity and less severe COVID-19 outcomes might be attributed to the fact that physical activity reduces the risk of cardiometabolic diseases and premature death, improves immune function, and reduces inflammation.

However, it’s never been clear how much exercise it takes to see those effects. Doctors have long said that exercise can decrease the risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19, like hospitalization and death. 1 2.

How much exercise should you do in a week?

If you want to reduce your risk of severe COVID, will one or two workouts a week suffice, or do you have to work up a sweat every day?

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study that examined how different levels of exercise affected patients’ outcomes from COVID. The researchers analyzed health records of over 194,000 adult patients at Kaiser Permanente in southern California who were all diagnosed with COVID-19.

DefinitionExercise per week
Always inactive10 mins
mostly inactive10 mins – 60 mins
Somewhat active60 mins – 150 mins
Mostly active>150 mins
Always Active300 mins+
activity definition in the study

Their study found that patients who were more active before infection had a lower risk of being hospitalized or dying within 90 days of the diagnosis of COVID. It’s easy to tell from the numbers: always-inactive patients were 191 percent more likely to get hospitalized and 391 percent more likely to die than always-active patients. Further, every time you go down the activity scale, you’re more likely to get worse COVID results.

As compared to always active patients, somewhat active patients were 143 percent more likely to die and 192 percent more likely to be hospitalized. As for consistently active patients, they were 125 percent and 155 percent more likely to die. The findings held true across all major demographic groups, including race, ethnicity, sex, and age.

For adults infected with COVID-19, the results of this study show a stepwise increase in hospitalizations, deterioration events, and death for lower levels of self-reported physical activity.

  1. Matthews, C. E., Saint-Maurice, P., Fulton, J. E., Patel, S., Loftfield, E., Sampson, J. N., & Berrigan, D. (2022). Changes in physical activity and sedentary time in United States adults in response to COVID-19. Plos one, 17(9), e0273919.
  2. Chastin, S. F., Abaraogu, U., Bourgois, J. G., Dall, P. M., Darnborough, J., Duncan, E., & Hamer, M. (2021). Effects of regular physical activity on the immune system, vaccination and risk of community-acquired infectious disease in the general population: systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 51(8), 1673-1686.