Recent Study Suggests that Exercise Might Qualify as Medicine

Take two walks and call me in the morning. The researchers behind the study “Associations of Physical Inactivity and COVID-19 Outcomes Among Subgroups” say that “public health leaders should add physical activity to pandemic control strategies.”

According to the recent study published last week by the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM),” those who exercise regularly had significantly less severe Covid symptoms and fewer hospitalizations than those who did not.

In this study, the researchers defined activity by weekly volume with the following groups:

  • Less than 10 minutes of activity per week
  • Between 10-60 minutes of activity per week
  • Between 60-150 minutes of activity per week
  • Over 150 minutes per week of consistent activity
  • Over 150 minutes per week of constant activity

Of the 194,000+ participants in the study, more than 12,000 (6.3%) were hospitalized, over 6,000 (3.1%) experienced a long-term deterioration event and over 5,000 (2.8%) died within 90 days. Around the world, patients who didn’t have consistent activity in their lives had greater odds of hospitalization, admission to intensive care and death. Patients who were consistently active or engaged in some activity fared much better with less severe symptoms.

Those with less than 10 minutes of weekly activity had a 91% greater chance of being hospitalized with severe outcomes. They were also nearly three times more likely to die from Covid than those who were more active.

There are many lifesaving reasons why adding exercise or physical activity to your life is needed, but here are the main health reasons:

  • Exercise reduces the risk of Metabolic Syndrome (waist circumference >35 inches for women and >40 inches for men; insulin resistance; high blood pressure; high triglycerides; low levels of HDL, aka “good cholesterol”).
  • Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • Exercise reduces the risk of premature death.
  • Exercise improves overall immunity and inflammation response.

These reasons may explain the links between physical activity and less severe COVID-19 outcomes.

My personal story is, I have consistently done more than 500 minutes a week of physical activity for decades and I am healthy, according to my last annual physical (Health Screening Numbers).

I also received the vaccination in 2021, as I have an immunocompromised, aging father who lives with me. I tested positive for COVID in 2022 but had basic allergy and cold symptoms at the age of 52 years old.

If you are looking for good references on the science behind physical activity as well as immune responses of healthy people, consider reading the study and clicking the links of the references and related articles. Let science be the determining factor of how you stay healthy, not politicians.

If you are looking for ideas about how to add physical activity, keep it simple and walk versus ride and stand versus sit. Moving more is the key to getting started. A quick 10-minute walk after every meal will change your life in a few short months.

The threat of Covid to our health-care system was real, with many areas around the United States quickly becoming overwhelmed by a high volume of hospitalizations. Overtaxing the health-care professionals and stretching the limits of special care capacity within our health-care systems can be significantly reduced by a multitude of precautions. During the time of the study, vaccines were just becoming available. Only 2% of the 194,000 had the vaccine at the time of the study.

— Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected].

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