Researchers in Europe find that exercise habits in the year prior to COVID exposure decrease severity of symptoms.
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Malisoux, L., Backes, A., Fischer, A., Aguayo, G., Ollert, M., & Fagherazzi, G. (2022). Associations between physical activity prior to infection and COVID-19 disease severity and symptoms: results from the prospective Predi-COVID cohort study. BMJ Open, 12(4), e057863. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-057863
Researchers in Luxembourg have added more data to the growing body of evidence suggesting that exercise protects against COVID-19. This new study was designed to answer the question: how does one’s level of regular exercise in the year prior to exposure impact the severity of the infection?
The results of this 452 person study are in line with prior studies we’ve discussed over the last two years: regular exercise protects against severe COVID-19 illness. Even more, this study was the first to demonstrate that exercise can even protect against moderate illness.
The researchers reported, “Our main findings were that participants with greater physical activity were at a lower risk of moderate COVID-19 severity …” More specifically, those individuals with the highest pre-infection exercise levels experienced the lowest risk of fatigue, chest pain, and dry cough during infection.
In various research studies, including this one, physical activity is quantified via metabolic equivalent task (MET) hours per week. The detailed questionnaires used by investigators to asses study participants’ activity levels after a confirmed COVID-19 infection evaluated both recreational exercises, like going to the gym, as well as activities of daily living, such as walking to work.
For example, walking to work would be assigned 3.0 METs per day, gardening for an hour on Saturday 4.0 METs, and cycling for an hour would be 6.0 METs. Study participants with the greatest level of protection against COVID-19 symptoms had 82 or more MET hours per week (as can be seen in Table 1). Study subjects with less than 30 METs per week had the greatest odds of experiencing symptoms linked with moderate illness mentioned above (fatigue, cough, etc.). Since post-infectious fatigue and long covid are still high concerns for many people, this new information should be made widely known. More mild infections are less likely to develop lasting post-infectious symptoms.
It’s important to recognize that this study and others have found even activities of daily living, such as walking and gardening, are protective. As helpful as structured recreational exercise like weight lifting can be, one can still reduce the odds of severe illness by simply walking more.
In conclusion, mounting evidence from various investigators throughout the world shows that regular exercise and physical activity help protect against moderate and severe illness associated with COVID-19.
00:02 Physical activity is protective against both moderate and severe COVID 19-like illness.
01:00 People who are physically active are less likely to experience common classic symptoms.
01:53 Exercise is a key therapeutic intervention. It does not need to be structured recreational fitness.
03:45 There are now 7 studies showing that regular exercise and physical activity saves lives.
05:43 MET = Metabolic Equivalent Task.
06:15 Fewer than 30 MET hours per week means that you more likely to have moderate to severe symptoms.
09:45 80 MET hours per week garnered the fewest symptoms.
10:50 40 – 60 MET hours per week is ideal.
12:00 Even walking and gardening are protective.
12:40 There is reduced odds of death.