Major new research confirms link between physical activity and better COVID-19 outcomes

The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) has published details of a major research project with COVID-19 patients, undertaken by Kaiser Permanente in California. The study involved a large cohort of 48,440 adult patients and the findings are very clear, as laid out in the summary conclusion on the first page of the full research report: “Consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes among infected adults. We recommend efforts to promote physical activity be prioritised by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care.

The BJSM article reinforces the credibility of the research: “Kaiser Permanente is one of the few (and largest) healthcare systems that collect physical activity data at every outpatient encounter with a healthcare provider. This is the first study we are aware of to demonstrate physical activity is an important and modifiable risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes. The magnitude of risk for all outcomes associated with being consistently inactive exceeded the odds of smoking and virtually all the chronic diseases studied in this analysis, indicating physical inactivity may play a crucial role as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes.”

Furthermore, the research notes that “Meeting US Physical Activity Guidelines was associated with substantial benefit, but even those doing some physical activity had lower risks for severe COVID-19 outcomes, including death, than those who were consistently inactive.”

The release of this research is probably the single most important endorsement to date of the work that we do to promote outdoor participation. There is now clear evidence that being physically active improves COVID-19 outcomes for everyone, and we know that being physically active outdoors both reduces the risk of transmission, and brings with it many other physical and mental health benefits. This new research also supports our focus on Outdoor Activity Days, which are closely aligned to the World Health Organization’s guidelines on physical activity.

We were already convinced that the promotion of outdoor participation could play a big role in helping Europe emerge from the pandemic. Now we have compelling evidence and a strong recommendation from scientists. We will use this as we continue to engage with and lobby policy makers, and it provides a big boost to our Europe-wide promotion of Outdoor Activity Days.

You can read the BJSM report HERE, which includes download links for the full research document.