A Kaiser Permanente study reveals that regular, consistent exercise activity associates with a lowered risk of severe COVID-19. Recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the Kaiser team reviewed 50,000 COVID-19 positive adults. As it turns out, individuals that remain consistently active, as defined by guidelines promulgated by the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines, face lower risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, such as hospitalization, ICU admission and death.
A study team led by Dr. Robert Sallis, Department of Family and Sports Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center (Southern California) sought to leverage that health system’s massive electronic health record database in an retrospective observational study involving 48,440 adult patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis from January 1, 2020 to October 21, 2020. By comparing hospitalization rates, ICU admissions and mortality for these patients who were consistently inactive, relatively active to those individuals consistently meeting physical activity guidelines.
This form of retrospective, observational study of course raises a number of limitations however important elements can also be observed, contributing to collective understanding based on real-world evidence.
The study team applied what they describe as at least three “exercise vital sign measurements and linked each patient’s self-reported physical activity category (e.g. consistently inactive to some activity to consistently meeting guidelines) and link to actual risk identified and manifest in the health systems electronic health record (EHR) including risk of hospitalization, ICU admission and death post COVID-19 diagnosis. Performing multivariable logistic regression including control factors such as demographics and known risk factors the team assessed if inactivity was in fact associated with COVID-19 outcomes.
The study team found that those individuals who consistently met physical activity guidelines face less of a risk of severe COVID-19 conditions than those who are less active. Consequently, the study authors “recommend efforts to promote physical activity be prioritized by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care.”
The Research Center
Kaiser Permanente Southern California, an integrated healthcare system serving about 4.7 million residents in Southern California at 15 medical centers. For this study, the Kaiser team leveraged their EHR linking laboratory results, healthcare visits and diagnoses, both inpatient and outpatient. The study was approved by the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Institutional Review Board.
Robert Sallis, MD, Department of Family and Sports Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center