Lack of exercise is the biggest risk factor for death from COVID-19


By Tom Walker Apr 14, 2021

The study found that consistent adherence to physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk of serious complications from COVID-19 / Shutterstock / De Visu

Lack of exercise is a leading cause of death from COVID-19, according to new research, with only advanced age and organ transplantation leading to increased risk.

Lack of exercise creates higher levels of risk than smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and cancer

A large American study, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine today (April 14, 2021), suggests that physical inactivity could more than double the risk of dying from the coronavirus.

The study found that patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive during the two years before the pandemic were more likely to be admitted to hospital, require intensive care and more likely to die than patients who consistently followed physical activity guidelines.

As a risk factor for serious complications from COVID-19, physical inactivity was only surpassed by advanced age and a history of organ transplants.

Dr Robert Sallis, author of the study, said: “It is notable that being constantly inactive was a greater risk factor for severe COVID-19 results than any of the medical problems under -common and risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control, with the exception of age and organ transplant history.

“In fact, physical inactivity was the most important risk factor for all outcomes, compared to commonly cited modifiable risk factors including smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease. and cancer.

“Therefore, we recommend that public health authorities inform all populations that in the absence of vaccination and compliance with public health safety guidelines such as social distancing and the use of masks, the practice of an activity regular physical activity may be the most important action individuals can take to prevent severe cases of COVID-19 and its complications, including death. “

To explore its potential impact on the severity of the infection – from hospital admission rates and the need for intensive care to death – researchers at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California, US, compared these results in 48,440 adults with confirmed COVID-19 infection between January and October 2020.

The average age of the patients was 47 years and almost two-thirds were women (62%). About half had no underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, COPD, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and cancer; almost 1 in 5 (18%) had only one; and almost a third (32%) had two or more.

All had reported their level of regular physical activity at least three times between March 2018 and March 2020 in outpatient clinics.

This was classified as consistently inactive (0-10 min / week); some activity (11-149 min / week); or always follow the physical activity guidelines (more than 150 minutes / week).

Some 7 percent consistently followed physical activity guidelines, while 15 percent were consistently inactive, with the remainder reporting “some” activity.

About 9 percent of the total were admitted to hospital; about 3% required intensive care; and 2 percent died.

The study found that consistent adherence to physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk of these outcomes.

After accounting for potentially influencing factors – such as age and underlying conditions – patients with COVID-19 who were consistently physically inactive were more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital as patients who had more than 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

Those who were inactive were also 73% more likely to require intensive care and 2.5 times more likely to die from the infection.

Patients who were consistently inactive were also 20% more likely to be admitted to hospital, 10% more likely to require intensive care, and 32% more likely to die from their infection than patients who were active regularly. physical.

Liz Terry, editor of HCM, said: “These findings build on previous research which established the positive effects of activity on COVID-19 results, but which have been largely ignored by governments. Surely this large-sample study must now clearly demonstrate the importance of exercise and lead to a new focus on physical activity by policy makers at the highest level.

“We also need greater appreciation from governments for the valuable role gyms and health clubs play in making exercise accessible and affordable for the masses.”

Commenting on the results, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said the results provided a “wake-up call”.

“We know that physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of death and disease around the world and UK activity levels are not where they should be, weakening us against COVID-19,” Edwards said.

“The government has the opportunity to prioritize physical activity through increased investment, tax and regulatory reform, and to start improving our national well-being in the wake of this crisis.”

To access the full study, click here for the British Journal of Sports Medicine.


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