In a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that physical inactivity is linked to more severe COVID-19 infection and a higher risk of dying from the disease.
They found patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive during the 2 years preceding the pandemic were more likely to be admitted to hospital, to require intensive care, and to die.
As a risk factor for severe disease, physical inactivity was surpassed only by advanced age and a history of organ transplant.
Several risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection have been identified, including advanced age, male sex, and certain underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
But physical inactivity is not one of them, even though it is a well-known contributory risk factor for several long-term conditions, including those associated with severe COVID-19, point out the researchers.
In the study, the team compared outcomes in 48,440 adults with confirmed COVID-19 infection between January and October 2020.
The patients’ average age was 47; nearly two-thirds were women (62%). Their average weight (BMI) was 31, which is classified as obese.
Around half had no underlying conditions, including diabetes, COPD, heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer; nearly 1 in 5 (18%) had only one, and almost a third (32%) had two or more.
Some 9% of the total were admitted to hospital; around 3% required intensive care, and 2% died.
The team found that consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk of these outcomes.
Patients with COVID-19 who were consistently physically inactive were more than twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital as those who clocked up 150+ minutes of physical activity every week.
They were also 73% more likely to require intensive care, and 2.5 times more likely to die of the infection.
And patients who were consistently inactive were also 20% more likely to be admitted to the hospital, 10% more likely to require intensive care, and 32% more likely to die of their infection than were patients who were doing some physical activity regularly.
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