Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. Being consistently inactive during the 2 years preceding the pandemic was found to carry a higher risk for hospitalization, admission to the ICU and death in COVID-19 infected patients compared to smoking and virtually all the chronic diseases found in the study.

2. When compared with consistently inactive patients, those who did some activity had lower odds for hospitalization and death, which suggests that any amount of physical activity may have benefit.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

It is well known that regular physical activity has multiple benefits, one of which includes reducing the risk of systemic inflammation which is a main contributor to lung damage caused by COVID-19. It has therefore been hypothesized that patients who consistently met the US Physical activity guidelines (at least 150 min/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity such as a brisk walk) would have less severe COVID 19 outcomes during their infection.

This retrospective observational study compiled self-reported physical activity among 48440 adult patients at Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between 1 January 2020 and 21 October 2020. Patients were only included if they had 3 or more outpatient visits recording their exercise behavior between 19 March 2018 and 19 March 2020. There were 3 categories in this study: consistently inactive (<10 minutes of activity/week), inconsistently active (11-149 minutes/week) and consistently active (≥150 minutes of activity/week). The primary outcomes examined were hospitalization, admission to ICU, and death due to COVID-19.

Among these 3 groups, it was found that being consistently active had the lowest risk for COVID-19 death, hospitalization, and ICU admission; followed by being inconsistently active and finally with being consistently inactive. The study’s large sample size, demographic diversity and health variables strengthened the findings of this study. The main limitation was that physical activity was self-reported, which is prone to a social desirability bias. Nonetheless, the findings of this study suggest that in addition to following the public health safety guidelines, public health agencies should consider encouraging communities to engage in regular physical activity in order to reduce the risk of serious consequences after being infected with COVID-19.

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