KEY POINTS

  • A new study found a link between physical inactivity and severe COVID-19
  • Adults have a recommended amount of physical activity each week to stay healthy
  • Below are some tips to add more physical activity to daily life

Patients who are more physically inactive are more likely to experience severe COVID-19, a new study found. How can people incorporate more activity into their lifestyles?

For their study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a team of researchers compared the cases of 48,440 adult COVID-19 patients from Jan. 1 to Oct. 21, 2020. Looking at their hospitalization rates, ICU admissions and mortality, the researchers found that those who were "consistently inactive" had a higher risk of being hospitalized, being admitted to the ICU and dying compared to the patients who regularly met the physical activity guidelines.

Apart from advanced age and having a history of an organ transplant, physical inactivity was seen as "the strongest risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes" even when compared to other risk factors such as obesity, smoking and hypertension.

"We recommend efforts to promote physical activity be prioritized by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care," the researchers wrote.

Physical Activity Guidelines

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities two or more times a week. This also applies to older adults, although the level of effort should be adjusted depending on their level of fitness.

"Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day," the guidelines noted. "Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits."

So how can people add more physical activity to their daily lives? Here are a few tips:

Just Move

People may not even notice it, but some of the things they do every day may also count as physical activities. In fact, even gardening is considered one, the American Heart Association (AHA) said.

Other activities such as riding a bike, going swimming and playing sports also qualify as aerobic activities as they can raise heart rate and get people to sweat. For those who are just starting out, the AHA recommends walking, as it is a simple activity that can be done anywhere, "even in place."

The idea is to get any activity, which is better than having none at all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Break Up Activities Into Smaller Chunks

Getting 150 minutes of physical activity may sound daunting, but keep in mind that this can be divided and distributed throughout the week. For instance, someone may choose to do 30 minutes of brisk walking five days of the week then do weight training for the two other days. Another option is to go for a more vigorous activity but only on a few days of the week, the CDC suggested

The activities may even be broken up into smaller "chunks" throughout the day, the agency said. Even moving for five minutes each time could be beneficial.

It's okay to start small then build up to more vigorous activities over time. Take note, however, that those with chronic conditions, are overweight or have been inactive should talk to their health care provider to see which activities are better suited for them before starting a routine.

Be More Aware, Make Better Choices

One simple way to add physical activity to one's lifestyle is to make choices that would encourage them. For instance, instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. When doing housework, whether it's vacuuming or washing dishes, try to be more conscious of your posture and the muscle groups you are using, the University of New Hampshire said in a post.

"For added exercise, listen to music while doing housework—dancing will add some activity to your day and add some fun to your chores," the university said.

Even something as simple as doing push-ups or jumping jacks before getting ready for work can help incorporate activity into one's routine. Wearing a pedometer may also help people become more aware if they've been sedentary. Instead of staying seated for long periods of time, one may choose to get up and walk around, perhaps every hour, to take a break from physical inactivity.

There are many ways to begin introducing physical activities to your life, and the CDC recommends choosing activities that fit your abilities and something that you can enjoy. This way, it would be easier to stick to it for the long haul.

Fitness and Exercise Pictured: A person getting ready for exercise. Photo: Pixabay