Regular physical activity can reduce the risks of Covid, according to the study

Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing Covid-19 or falling seriously ill from the disease, with around 20 minutes a day providing the greatest benefit, a global analysis of data suggests.

Regular physical activity is linked to a lower risk of infection, severity, hospitalization and death from Covid-19, according to new pooled data analysis of the available evidence published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A weekly total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity appears to offer the best protection, the study suggests.

“Regular physical activity appears to be related to a lower likelihood of adverse outcomes from Covid-19,” the team of Spanish researchers wrote. “Our analysis reveals that people who engage in regular physical activity have a lower likelihood of Sars-CoV-2 infection, Covid-19 hospitalization, severe Covid-19 illness and Covid-19-related death than physically inactive people inactive, regardless of the design and instrument used”.

Experts know that regular exercise has a protective effect against the severity of respiratory infections.

Regular physical activity is associated with a number of health benefits, including reducing the incidence of risk factors for adverse outcomes from Covid-19, such as obesity or type 2 diabetes.

However, due to the limitations of the analysis, the results should be interpreted with caution, the researchers said.

Previous research suggests that physical activity can reduce both the risk and severity of respiratory infections due, at least in part, to its ability to boost the immune system.

The link between regular physical activity and the severity of Covid-19 is poorly understood but likely involves metabolic and environmental factors, say the researchers, who set out to try to quantify the threshold of physical activity that might be needed to reduce the risks of infection. and associated hospital admission and death.

They searched major research databases for relevant studies published between November 2019 and March 2022. From an initial pool of 291, they pooled results from 16.

The studies included a total of 1.8 million adults, just over half of whom (54%) were women. The average age of the participants was 53 years. Most of the studies were observational and were conducted in South Korea, England, Iran, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, Palestine, South Africa and Sweden.

The pooled data analysis showed that, overall, those who included regular physical activity in their weekly routine had an 11% lower risk of infection with Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid.

They also had a 36% lower risk of hospital admission, a 44% lower risk of serious illness from Covid-19 and a 43% lower risk of death from Covid-19 than their physically inactive peers.

The maximum protective effect occurred at around 500 minutes of metabolic equivalent of the task (MET) per week, after which there was no improvement.

METS express the amount of energy (calories) spent in one minute of physical activity; 500 of them are equivalent to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.

The researchers cautioned that the analysis included observational studies, different study designs, subjective assessments of physical activity levels, and only looked at the Beta and Delta variants of Sars-CoV-2 rather than Omicron, all of which could weaken the findings.

There are plausible biological explanations for what they found, the researchers said. Regular moderate-intensity exercise may help increase the body’s anti-inflammatory responses, as well as cardiorespiratory and muscle fitness, all of which may explain its beneficial effects on the severity of Covid-19, they suggest.

“Our findings highlight the protective effects of sufficient physical activity as a public health strategy, with potential benefits for reducing the risk of severe Covid-19,” they wrote. “Given the heterogeneity and risk of publication bias, more studies with standardized methodology and outcome reporting are now needed.”

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