Physical inactivity is linked to a more serious COVID-19 infection and an increased risk of dying from the disease, according to a large US study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive in the 2 years leading up to the pandemic were more likely to be admitted to hospital, require intensive care, and die than patients who consistently followed guidelines physical activity, depending on the results.
As a risk factor for serious illness, physical inactivity was only overcome by advanced age and a history of organ transplantation.
Several risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection have been identified, including advanced age, male gender, and some underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
But physical inactivity is not one of them, even though it is a well-known contributing risk factor for several long-term conditions, including those associated with severe COVID-19, the researchers point out.
To explore its potential impact on the severity of the infection, including hospital admission rates, the need for intensive care, and death, the researchers compared these findings in 48,440 adults with confirmed COVID infection. 19 between January and October 2020.
The average age of the patients was 47 years; almost two-thirds were women (62%). Their average weight (BMI) was 31, which is classified as obese.
About half had no underlying conditions, including diabetes, COPD, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and cancer; almost 1 in 5 (18%) had only one; and almost a third (32%) had two or more.
All had reported their level of regular physical activity at least three times between March 2018 and March 2020 in outpatient clinics. This was classified as consistently inactive (0-10 minutes / week); some activity (11-149 minutes / week); or consistently following physical activity guidelines (150+ minutes / week).
About 7% consistently followed physical activity guidelines, 15% were consistently inactive, with the rest reporting some activity.
White patients were the most likely to consistently meet physical activity guidelines (10%), followed by Asian patients (7%), Hispanic patients (6%), and African American patients (5%).
About 9% of the total were hospitalized; about 3% required intensive care; and 2% died. Consistent adherence to physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk of these outcomes.
After accounting for potentially influencing factors, such as race, age, and underlying medical conditions, patients with COVID-19 who were consistently physically inactive were more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital than those who had accumulated more than 150 minutes of physical care. activity every week.
They were also 73% more likely to require intensive care and 2.5 times more likely to die from the infection.
And patients who were consistently inactive were also 20% more likely to be admitted to hospital, 10% more likely to require intensive care, and 32% more likely to die from their infection than patients who engaged in regular physical activity. .
This is an observational study and, as such, cannot establish the cause. The study also relied on patients’ own assessments of their physical activity. There was also no measure of exercise intensity above the threshold of “moderate to intense exercise” (such as brisk walking).
But the study was large and ethnically diverse. And the researchers point out, “It should be noted that being consistently inactive was a greater 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 history of organ transplantation.
“In fact, physical inactivity was the most important risk factor for all outcomes, compared to commonly cited modifiable risk factors including smoking, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. [high blood pressure], cardiovascular disease and cancer. “
They conclude: “We recommend that public health authorities inform all populations who, in the absence of vaccination and follow public health safety guidelines such as social distance and the use of masks, regularly commit [physical activity] may be the most important action individuals can take to prevent severe COVID-19 and its complications, including death.
“This message is particularly important given the increased obstacles to achieving [physical activity] during lockouts and other restrictions in the event of a pandemic. “