New Study Reports That Regular Exercise Reduces The Risk of Developing Severe COVID-19 Symptoms & Hospitalization

For years, health and fitness experts have regarded regular exercise as the “golden cure” for most, if not all, of life’s ailments, illnesses and challenges. Numerous scientific studies have backed these claims up with empirical data showing that individuals who are active possess a significantly lower risk of developing high blood pressure, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression compared to those who are more sedentary [1].

New research is now suggesting that regular activity can help protect against severe COVID-19 symptoms and subsequent hospitalization.

Active People Stay Out Of Hospitals

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, analyzed data from approximately 50,000 adult patients in California diagnosed with COVID-19 from January 2020 to the end of October 2020. Researchers asked each patient to self-report how many minutes they exercised each week. They discovered that patients who were consistently inactive (less then 10 minutes a week) had a greater risk of hospitalization, admission to the ICU and death compared to those who worked out 150-plus minutes a week [2].

“Even after we controlled for variables such as obesity and smoking in the analysis, we still saw inactivity was strongly associated with much higher odds of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death compared with moderate physical activity or any activity at all,” according to Dr. Robert E, Sallis, a family and sports medicine physician at the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center, who helped conduct the study.

Researchers of the study are recommending efforts to promote physical activity be prioritized by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care.

Another study published by the National Institute of Health also found a link between regular exercise and a boost in immune-system response [3]. However the intensity at which one exercises could matter…

Does Intensity Matter?

Research published in the Journal of Obesity looked at over 400,000 middle-age adults in the U.K. and found that slow walkers were almost four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than brisk walkers [4].

“We know already that obesity and frailty are key risk factors for COVID-19 outcomes. This is the first study to show that slow walkers have a much higher risk of contracting severe COVID-19 outcomes, irrespective of their weight,” lead researcher and professor of physical activity and sedentary behaviour at the University of Leicester Tom Yates said in a press release.

After reading through these findings, you may now find yourself eager to exercise. Great! But what exercise should you do?

What Kind Of Exercise Should You Do?

Allow me to let you in on a little secret of mine; all exercise is good exercise and there are so many options to choose from!

Brisk walking is a great start. Not only is this easy, free and can be done at any time, but being outside has the added benefits of fresh air, sunlight and uplifting views from nature. Not to mention that government restrictions may be preventing you from hitting up your local gym.

Once you have selected your movement of choice, I recommend a minimum of 150 minutes and up to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. This works out to as little as 22 minutes a day!

Alternatively, you can perform 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity if you’re under a time crunch, or want to spice things up.

With vaccinations rolling out at record pace, it appears as though the end to the COVID-19 pandemic is near. Until then, follow the science and save yourself a trip to the ICU. Put your heart and lungs to work!

Work With a Pro

At Stephen Fitness & Rehabilitation, we offer personal training and physiotherapy services specifically designed for individuals looking for help during these unprecedented times.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one become stronger, more mobile and independent in the comfort of their own home!


[1] Ciolac, E. G. (2013). Exercise training as a preventive tool for age-related disorders: a brief review. Clinics68(5), 710-717.

[2] Sallis, R., Young, D. R., Tartof, S. Y., Sallis, J. F., Sall, J., Li, Q., … & Cohen, D. A. (2021). Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

[3] da Silveira, M. P., da Silva Fagundes, K. K., Bizuti, M. R., Starck, É., Rossi, R. C., & e Silva, D. T. D. R. (2020). Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clinical and experimental medicine, 1-14.

[4] Yates, T., Razieh, C., Zaccardi, F., Rowlands, A. V., Seidu, S., Davies, M. J., & Khunti, K. (2021). Obesity, walking pace and risk of severe COVID-19 and mortality: analysis of UK Biobank. International Journal of Obesity, 1-5.