Firefighter exercising doing pushups. Photo: Wikipedia Commons License.
14 Apr 2021

Exercise reduces the risk of being severely affected by covid-19


Covid patients who have been physically inactive are at significantly higher risk of being hospitalized, receiving intensive care and at risk of death, according to a new study.

We already know that obesity, old age and underlying diseases such as diabetes increase the risk of being severely affected by covid-19. Now research shows that physical inactivity is also a risk factor.

This, in short, may be good news for firefighters: A well-trained body has better lung capacity and muscle strength and has a better starting point to fight off the disease without complications.

Nearly 50,000 people with diagnosed covid-19 by 2020 participated in a US study recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In 2018 and 2019, patients were asked how much they moved during a normal week (the question was asked more as a general concern and not in relation to Covid since this virus was not yet known.)




Sedative lifestyle more than doubled the risk of complications

The answers were divided into three categories, and the researchers then compared the answers about the activity level with how sick the patients became in covid-19.


- Inactive (zero to ten minutes of exercise per week) 

- Somewhat active (11-149 minutes per week) 

- Active (more than 150 minutes per week)  


The results show that there is a connection between the physical activity and how seriously ill the patients became. Being inactive more than doubled the risk of being hospitalized compared to being active. Inactive patients were also two and a half times more likely to die than active ones.

The researchers could also see that those who were a little active had a lower risk of ending up in hospital than those who were completely inactive, which shows that even a little exercise can be very important.


Inactivity third largest risk factor - worse than smoking 

According to the researchers, physical inactivity is considered to be the third largest risk factor for covid-19, after age and organ transplantation. The study also indicates that physical inactivity is a greater risk factor than smoking.

One reason why exercise is protective against falling seriously ill in covid-19 in particular is that physical activity reduces the risk of systemic inflammation, which is the issue with the type of  lung function complications that affect many covid-19 patients.

Photo: (Above:) Firefighter exercising doing pushups. Photo: Wikipedia Commons License.