Daily exercise may reduce risk of severe COVID-19–but how much?

This will make you want to get up off the couch.

Heading to the gym or going for runs regularly could be the key to reducing the risk of developing severe COVID-19, according to new research.

Whether it’s going for walks after work, or keeping up with a running routine set earlier in the pandemic, 150-minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity significantly lowered the risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and even death from the virus, according to a study headed by Kaiser Permanente, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers said that patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive in the two years preceding the pandemic were more likely to be admitted to a hospital, require intensive care, and to die than patients who had met the physical guidelines and battled the virus.

While the research is an observational study, it is a cause of concern for those that don’t get out as often as they like. The pandemic heightened levels of depression and anxiety, two mental illnesses that can contribute to sluggish behavior that can result in lower levels of exercise and physical activity.

In this study, 48,440 adults with confirmed COVID-19 cases between January and October 2020 were observed. For reference, the average patients age was 47, and most were women (62%) that had an average BMI of 31, classifying them as obese and making them more susceptible to the virus.

When looking at physical activity levels, this is things get worrisome. Only about 7% of patients were consistently meeting the guidelines while 15% said they were consistently inactive. The rest reported some activity, but still it was below the recommended weekly amount.

This is where the physical activity paid off: patients with COVID-19 who said they were consistently physically inactive were more than twice as likely to be admitted to a hospital than those that met the threshold, according to the study. To make matters worse, they were also 73% more likely to end up in the ICU, while their rate of mortality from the virus increased 2.5 times.

Compared to those that reported doing some physical activity regularly, physically inactive patients were 32% more likely to die from the infection.

“It is notable that being consistently inactive was a stronger risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes than any of the underlying medical conditions and risk factors identified by [The Centers for Disease Control] except for age and a history of organ transplant,” researchers said in a statement.

“In fact, physical inactivity was the strongest risk factor across all outcomes, compared with the commonly cited modifiable risk factors, including smoking, obesity, diabetes, hypertension [high blood pressure], cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

The 150-minutes a week plateau is recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. How the exercise comes can vary, but it can be managed by doing 30-minutes, 5-days per week.