Reducing Severe COVID-19 Risk: The Role of Regular Exercise

An analysis of studies indicates that regular physical activity is linked to reduced risks for COVID-19 infection as well as its severity – such as being admitted to hospital or even dying from it.

Analysis indicates that moderate intensity physical activity of 150 minutes every week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity provides optimal protection.

Previous studies suggest that physical activity can reduce both the risk and severity of respiratory infections due to its role in strengthening immunity.

Researchers note that while the relationship between regular physical activity and severity of COVID-19 remains poorly understood, likely involving environmental and metabolic influences. They wanted to measure a physical activity threshold which would reduce infection risks as well as hospital admissions or deaths associated with the infection risk.

They accessed three large databases to search for studies suitable to this task and selected 16 from an initial batch of 291.

Studies on an estimated population of 1,853,610 participants aged 53 years average and 54% female; most studies were observational in nature and conducted across Sweden, South Africa, Palestine Spain Brazil UK Canada Iran South Korea England

Analysis data indicated that individuals engaging in regular physical activity on a weekly basis typically had a 11% lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Physically active individuals were found to experience 44% lower COVID-19 symptoms, 36% reduced hospital admission risks, and 43% lowered death risks compared to physically inactive people.

At approximately 500 MET weekly minutes, maximum protective benefits were observed and no further improvements could be seen after this threshold had been passed.

METS stands for Metabolic Equivalent of Task, which measures how much energy was expended per minute of physical activity. One thousand METS is equal to 150 moderate intensity or 75 vigorous intensity minutes of physical activity.

However, observational studies were included in this analysis with subjective physical activity level assessments and different study designs; only Delta and Beta variants of SARS-CoV-2 were considered instead of Omicron variants, all which may impact upon results.

Researchers maintain there are viable biological explanations for their results. Regular moderate-intensity exercise could improve anti-inflammatory responses of the body as well as muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness – all contributing to reduced severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

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