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Doing This 22 Minutes a Day Reduces Your COVID Risk, Says New Study

A cheap and easy way to guard against the coronavirus.

Your first priority—when trying to avoid COVID-19—should be to get vaccinated as soon as you can, and now, in exciting news, researchers have found there's something else you can do to further protect yourself from severe COVID-19, something you could have been doing all year long to reduce your risk of death: Exercise. Turns out, it can have a big impact in staving off severe coronavirus. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.

You Need to Stay Active to Avoid COVID-19, Days Study

In a study published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers analyzed health data from 48,000 Southern California adults, median age 47, who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between January and October 2020. Overall, 6% of the study group were consistently active, about 14% were consistently inactive and the rest were inconsistently active. 

The scientists found that people who were consistently inactive were twice as likely to be hospitalized with COVID, 1.7 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care, and nearly 2.5 times more likely to die than those who were consistently active.

Consistent inactivity held the highest risk for death from COVID-19, other than being older than 60 or having had an organ transplant. Even patients who were inconsistently active had a lower risk of severe COVID-19 than those who were consistently inactive, suggesting that any amount of physical activity can help guard against severe outcomes from COVID.

"People who regularly exercise had the best chance of beating COVID-19, while people who were inactive did much worse," said study author Dr. Robert Sallis, a family and sports medicine physician at the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in Fontana, California. 

"What surprised me the most from this study was the strength of the association between inactivity and poor outcomes from COVID-19," said study co-author Deborah Rohm Young. "Even after we included variables such as obesity and smoking in the analysis, we still saw inactivity was strongly associated with much higher odds of hospitalization, ICU admission and death, compared with moderate physical activity or any activity at all."

RELATED: Most COVID Patients Did This Before Getting Sick

How Much Exercise Can Help?

Sallis said that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a moderate pace—meaning you're too winded to sing but can still talk—can provide real protection against COVID. "I continue to believe that exercise is medicine that everyone should take, especially in this era of COVID-19," he said.

"This is a wake-up call for the importance of healthy lifestyles and especially physical activity," added Sallis. "[The] study truly shows how important that is during this pandemic and beyond."Just 22 minutes a day could help.

RELATED: Doctors Say "DO NOT" Do This After Your COVID Vaccine

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get vaccinated ASAP, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael