One of the things I’ve often tried to do in my writing is to align my message with the seasons.
Whether it’s preparing for an injury-free spring golf season, being able to safely shovel snow in the winter, battling seasonal affective disorder in the fall, or feeling comfortable with less of clothing during the summer, the way to prepare for each of these events is different.
I like to think it helps keep exercise and nutrition programs fresh and interesting throughout life. Considering this approach, I was struck by the fact that we as a people are about to enter a whole new season – the post-COVID-19 pandemic season. Accordingly, we should attempt to successfully navigate this new season.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, most of North America is entering a new phase of the relationship with the virus as we get closer to declaring it endemic (much like the flu ). This means that the responsibility is shifted more to us as individuals to take precautions against illness and to prepare ourselves to better fight serious illnesses if we are infected. With this recognition, it makes sense to review some of the available scientific data regarding COVID and lifestyle and its link to serious illness.
Common sense tells us that exercising regularly and eating healthier results in better overall fitness for the most people. However, I wanted to find evidence that showed exercise and good nutrition had an impact on disease severity specific to COVID-19. The first study I found was in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
It was published as “Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19: a study of 48,440 adult patients” and was conducted between January and October 2020.
The study identified adult patients with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. Of this group, three subgroups have been identified; those who identified as constantly inactive (0-10 minutes of activity per week), those who reported doing one activity per week (11-149 minutes), and those who always met activity/exercise guidelines recommended (150 minutes per week or more). ) Each group was then linked to its risk of hospitalization, ICU admission and death after diagnosis.
In the UK study, the group who identified as “constantly inactive” had the greatest risk of being hospitalized and admitted to intensive care and were also at higher risk of dying from COVID-19. In their conclusion, the group suggested that consistent adherence to physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19 in infected adults. They also concluded that physical activity should be encouraged by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care.
The UK physical activity guidelines that were used in the study, as outlined by the National Health Service (NHS), state that adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity spread over the course of the week. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, water exercise, bicycling, dancing, pushing a lawnmower, and hiking. Running, swimming, stair climbing, weight lifting, and group exercise classes are classified as vigorous or very vigorous activities.
If it wasn’t clear in the past, there should be no more debate about whether physical exercise and activity in general should be part of every adult’s daily life. Evidence suggests it can, quite literally, be the difference between life and death as we learn to co-exist with the coronavirus. We should look at our active lifestyles as another “tool” in our toolkits along with good nutrition, stress management, sleep hygiene, and vaccinations to help us get back to a more normal day-to-day life.