Infectious Disease

Physical activity may lower risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes

December 30, 2022

2 min read

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People who were more physically active prior to developing COVID-19 had a lower risk for severe outcomes than those who were less physically active, according to researchers.

The Kaiser Permanente study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine aligns with previous research that also showed a link between greater physical activity and better COVID-19 outcomes, irrespective of whether patients had chronic conditions, according to a press release from the organization.

Data derived from: Young DR, et al. Am J Prev Med. 2022;doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2022.10.007.

The current study also showed that, similar to prior evidence, Asian, Black and Hispanic people had higher risks for adverse outcomes compared with white people.

Regardless of race or ethnicity, though, higher rates of physical activity were associated with lower odds for death and hospitalization.

“The main message is that every little bit of physical activity counts,” Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, director of the division of behavioral research for the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, said in the release. “The more exercise the better, no matter a person’s race, ethnicity, age, sex or chronic conditions.”

The retrospective cohort study included 194,191 adult patients who had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis between Jan. 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021.

Using the Exercise Vital Sign (EVS) assessment, Young and colleagues categorized patients as:

  • always inactive if all EVS assessments were 10 minutes or fewer per week;
  • mostly inactive if they had a median EVS of 0 to 60 minutes per week;
  • some activity if they had a median EVS of 60 to 150 minutes per week;
  • consistently active if they had a median EVS greater than 150 minutes per week; other
  • always active if all EVS assessments were greater than 150 minutes per week.

Overall, 2.8% of participants died within 90 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis, 3.1% experienced a worsening event and 6.3% were hospitalized.

Young and colleagues reported that “dose-response effects were strong.” Compared with patients in the always active category, those in the some activity category had higher odds of death (OR = 1.92; 95% CI, 1.48-2.49), deterioration (OR = 1.83; 95% CI, 1.49-2.25) and hospitalization (OR = 1.43; 95% CI, 1.26-1.63).

Additionally, the “results were generally consistent across” race and ethnicity, sex, BMI and for patients with CVD or hypertension, the researchers wrote.

“Our findings drive home the need for physicians to emphasize to their patients that getting vaccinated and being more physically active are two of the most important things you can do to prevent severe outcomes of COVID-19,” senior study author Robert E Sallis, MD, a family and sports medicine physician at the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center, said in the release.

Young, Sallis and colleagues concluded that “public health leaders should add physical activity to pandemic control strategies.”

“This is a powerful opportunity to develop stronger policies supporting physical activity as a pandemic-mitigation strategy,” Young said in the release. “Our study provides new evidence to inform appropriate interventions across demographic groups.”

References:

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