Getting vaccinated can protect you from a bad outcome if you become infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But there is another way to keep the virus at bay, and it offers many other benefits as well.
Those who exercise regularly have lower rates of hospitalization or death following infection, according to new research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
This protective effect against the ravages of COVID-19 is present regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity, or any chronic health conditions that he or she might have.
In the study, researchers examined health records of about 194,000 adult Kaiser Permanente patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 2020 and May 2021.
That placed the study period squarely within the timeframe when vaccines were not yet widely available.
Each patient fell into one of five categories that ranged from those who got 10 minutes or less of exercise each week to those who got 150 minutes of exercise each week prior to infection.
The more physical activity people reported, the less likely they were to be hospitalized or to die within 90 days of receiving a diagnosis of COVID-19.
Infected Black, Hispanic and Asian patients still had a greater risk of poor outcomes than white patients. However, Black, Hispanic and Asian patients who exercised had better outcomes than their peers who remained inactive.
Even those with chronic conditions — such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease or obesity — weathered COVID-19 infection better if they reported higher levels of exercise.
In a summary of the findings, study co-author Dr. Robert Sallis — a family and sports medicine physician at the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center — says:
“Our findings drive home the need for physicians to emphasize to their patients that getting vaccinated and being more physically active are two of the most important things you can do to prevent severe outcomes of COVID-19.”
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