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Pages: Defense vs Covid-19

We have long known the health benefits of increasing our heart rate, sweating, walking around Cebu Business Park, swimming, climbing the stairs of SM City Cebu, playing basketball, biking up Bu-ak or Willy’s—in one word: exercising.

But there has never been a study linking the contributions of physical movement versus the coronavirus—until now.

I just read a New York Times article entitled “Regular Exercise May Help Protect Against Severe Covid.” Written by Gretchen Reynolds and published on April 14, it is a compelling piece on the benefits of exercise against this disease that has infected 141 million and killed three million.

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last week, the study involved doctors and researchers at, among others, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, and the University of California, San Diego.

The study involved 48,440 adult men and women—all based in California—who had been part of the Kaiser health care system. For the past three years, their exercise habits were recorded. So were their other activities (smoking habits, for example) and health issues (history of diabetes, cancer, kidney problems etc.).

These 48,440 adults all contracted the Covid-19 virus in 2020. Given the data that Kaiser already possessed, an analysis was conducted dividing them into three groups: 1) the least-active, those who exercised 10 minutes or less per week; 2) somewhat-active, less than 150 minutes per week; and 3) most-active, those who exercised 150 minutes or more per week.

The results were stunning. The group who led active lifestyles were—conclusively—the least likely to land in the hospital or die because of Covid-19.

“Being sedentary was the greatest risk factor” for severe illness, “unless someone was elderly or an organ recipient,” said Dr. Robert Sallis, a sports medicine doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center who spearheaded this study.

Dr. Sallis makes a strong argument. He said that while “you can’t do anything about those other risks” (including advanced age and organ transplants), he said: “You can exercise.”

The study concluded that those in the least-active group ended up being hospitalized because of Covid-19 a horrifying two times more than those in the most-active group. An even more distressing result: The least-active adults were 2.5 times more likely to die compared to those who actively worked out.

Even when we compare the least-active to the somewhat-active group, the sedentary adults were hospitalized 20 percent more often and were about 30 percent more likely to die.

“I think, based on this data,” said Dr. Sallis, “we can tell people that walking briskly for half an hour five times a week should help protect them against severe Covid-19.”

Dr. Sallis added that getting vaccinated is our ultimate goal. But until we get that jab in the arm, he said, “Regular exercise is the most important thing they can do to lessen their risk.”


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