The role of regular physical activity has been studied in several observational studies, supporting its benefits in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, as well as its ability to enhance SARS-CoV-2 vaccine responses, according to an editorial piece published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The first indication of the potential benefits of physical activity appeared from population-based studies, where physical inactivity was linked to poorer outcomes following SARS-CoV-2 infection, including higher risk of hospitalisation, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) and death. Conversely, other studies showed that participants who adhered to the recommended levels of physical activity had a lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, severe outcomes, or COVID-19-related death than those who did not.
Other potential benefits of physical activity are related to vaccine-induced immunogenicity, which may be lower in immunosuppressed patients or older individuals. Data from a clinical trial conducted in immunocompromised patients indicated that patients with higher activity levels (more than 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) displayed greater seroconversion rates and geometric mean titres versus being inactive.
Future research should focus on assessing the effectiveness of optimal physical activity recommendations to prevent severe COVID-19 and investigate its usefulness in treating persistent symptoms, the author concluded.