Patients with COVID-19 who have been consistently physically inactive have a significantly higher risk of severe outcomes than patients who were getting at least some exercise or regularly met physical activity guidelines prior to the illness, researchers found.
Among the 48,440 patients in their study, 14.4 percent were consistently inactive in the two years before their COVID-19 diagnosis, 79.1 percent had some activity, and 6.4 percent consistently met recommended physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes per week.
Compared with those who consistently met activity guidelines, people who were consistently inactive were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized and to die from the virus, according to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Consistently inactive patients also had worse outcomes than patients who got some exercise without meeting the guideline-recommended minimum.
“It is well known that immune function improves with regular physical activity, and those who are regularly active have a lower incidence, intensity of symptoms and death from viral infections,” said co-author Dr. Robert Sallis of the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California.
“Regular physical activity is associated with improvements in lung capacity and cardiovascular and muscular functioning that may serve to lessen the negative impacts of COVID-19 if it is contracted,” he added.