Small steps, strong shield: directly measured, moderate physical activity in 65 361 adults is associated with significant protective effects from severe COVID-19 outcomes
Lizelle Steenkamp, Robin Terence Saggers, Rossella Bandini, Saverio Stranges, Yun-Hee Choi, Jane S Thornton, Simon Hendrie, Deepak Patel, Shannon Rabinowitz, Professor Jon Patricios
British Journal of Sports Medicine, doi:10.1136/bjsports-2021-105159
Objective To determine the association between directly measured physical activity and hospitalisation, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, ventilation and mortality rates in patients with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Methods Directly measured physical activity data from 65 361 adult patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis from 19 March 2020 to 30 June 2021, were grouped by activity level: low (<60 min/week), moderate (60-149 min/week) and high activity (≥150 min/week). The association of physical activity levels and the risk of adverse outcomes was analysed using modified Poisson regression. We accounted for demographics and comorbidities including conditions known to influence COVID-19 outcomes, as well as patient complexity as measured by the Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Group system. The regression approach was further validated with a Bayesian network model built off a directed acyclic graph. Results High physical activity was associated with lower rates of hospitalisation (risk ratio, RR 0.66, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.70), ICU admission (RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.52 to 0.66), ventilation (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.64) and death (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.68) due to COVID-19 than those who engaged in low physical activity. Moderate physical activity also was associated with lower rates of hospitalisation (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.91), admission to ICU (RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.89), ventilation (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.84) and death (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.69 to 0.91). Conclusions Adults with high and moderate physical activity levels had significantly better outcomes than those with low activity when contracting COVID-19. The apparent protective effects of regular physical activity extended to those with concomitant chronic medical conditions.
Competing interests LS, DP, SR and SH are employed by Discovery Health; JP and JST are editors of BJSM.
Patient consent for publication Not applicable. Ethics approval Permission for use of DHMS anonymised medical and physical activity data was obtained from the Research Governance Committee of Discovery Health. Ethical approval was obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (clearance certificate number M210725.) Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement No data are available. Not applicable.
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