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Two women wearing masks walking outdoors for physical activity.

study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (April 2021) found that people who exercised 150 minutes per week or more had a much lower risk of death and severe COVID-19. And people who did some physical activity fared better than those who did not exercise.

To study the effect of exercise on the severity of COVID-19 outcomes, such as hospitalization and death, researchers compared health data from 48,440 adults. All tested positive for COVID-19. The average age of the study participants was 47, and 61.9% were female. All reported their level of physical activity at least three times during the two years before the pandemic.

Study participants fell into three categories:

  • Consistently active, 6.4% (150 minutes or more per week).
  • Some physical activity, 79.6% (11 to 149 minutes per week).
  • Consistently inactive, 14% (10 minutes or less per week).

Researchers separated data from those with known risk factors (such as age, diabetes, and obesity). This helped them measure the effects of physical activity alone. The findings are big. Researchers also say they are conservative, meaning that they might even be stronger than this study found.

Compared with people who consistently exercised for 150 or more minutes per week, inactive people were:

  • 249% more likely to die from COVID-19.
  • 226% more likely to end up in the hospital.
  • 173% more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

People who did at least some weekly physical activity also had much lower risks of dying and severe COVID-19 than people who didn’t. Only people with older age or organ transplant had higher risks than those who lacked physical activity.

The study confirms the importance of regular physical activity. Other key messages include:

Physical therapists are movement experts. They help people of all ages and abilities achieve the health benefits of regular physical activity. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To locate a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.

Find a PT Near You!


The American Physical Therapy Association encourages Americans to move more for better health. View our public service announcement.

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