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Play Every Day Blog > Posts > Here’s one more reason to get out and play at any age: Staying active reduces your chances of having a serious COVID-19 infection


November 04
Here’s one more reason to get out and play at any age: Staying active reduces your chances of having a serious COVID-19 infection

​NOVEMBER 4, 2021 — Staying active makes you stronger. It improves your heart health. Just one session of activity can make you feel less anxious. A new study published this fall shows regular physical activity improves something else that’s critically important given the continuing pandemic in Alaska: It can make a COVID-19 infection less serious.

The study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine focused on almost 50,000 adults who had a COVID-19 infection in 2020. This journal is peer-reviewed, which means the featured research is examined by other experts in the field to ensure it is of high scientific quality prior to publication.  

The new study in this journal showed that those who were consistently active were less likely to have a serious COVID-19 infection. That means adults who met the national physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week were less likely to need hospitalization or die from COVID-19 infections than adults who reported less activity each week. 

Physical activity benefits apply to everyone

One of the most important notes in this study was how strong this connection is between staying active and your body’s ability to fight infectious diseases like COVID-19. This connection between activity and less serious COVID-19 holds no matter:
  • your age,
  • your body weight,
  • whether you smoke, or
  • if you have other health conditions that can increase severe outcomes from COVID-19.

“Regardless of anything else about us, being physically active can improve our body’s ability to fight an infectious disease like COVID-19,” said Karol Fink, manager of Alaska’s Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

“That’s a powerful thing to learn from this study, especially because physical activity can be available to most of us at little or no cost. Activity can look any way you want it to look. You can go for a walk, you can hike on trails, or play outside with your friends from school.” 

Strong link between staying active and improving outcomes after infections

Not getting enough physical activity week after week has been linked to increased chances of several ongoing conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and living with an unhealthy body weight. But what about a link between being inactive and outcomes related to shorter-term, infectious diseases like COVID-19?

The new study published this fall identified 48,440 adults who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 1, 2020, and October 21, 2020. These adults had reported to their doctor at least three times during the past two years whether they had been consistently inactive (10 minutes or less of activity each week), doing some amount of activity (between 11–149 minutes of activity each week), or consistently meeting the guidelines of at least 150 minutes of activity each week.

Results showed that getting closer to or meeting the weekly physical activity recommendations reduced your odds of having a serious COVID-19 infection. Adults who were consistently inactive were more than twice as likely to require hospitalization or die from COVID-19 than adults who consistently met the physical activity guidelines.

Play Every Day and Healthy Futures support active Alaska families

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services provides programs and works with partners to make physical activity easier for families.

Play Every Day – For the past 10 years, the Division of Public Health has run this statewide public education campaign to help children grow up at a healthy weight. Campaign messages and related programs support children in getting 60 minutes of daily physical activity (the recommended amount for school-age kids), as well as choosing healthy foods and drinks without added sugar. Find, follow and share these educational messages from Play Every Day on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at playeverydayak.

Healthy Futures – Play Every Day’s long-time partner is the nonprofit Alaska program called Healthy Futures. Every school year, the program offers a free physical activity challenge for participating elementary schools and students statewide. This fall, about 90 elementary schools are participating, with thousands of Alaska children already turning in monthly logs showing their commitment to 60 minutes of activity many days of the month. Find out if your child’s school is signed up for the fall challenge, which continues through the end of November. The spring Healthy Futures Challenge will begin February 1, 2022.