Does Exercise Protect Against Severe COVID?

Does Exercise Protect Against Severe COVID?

Does Exercise Protect Against Severe COVID?

Until now, there really haven’t been any good studies directly looking at the link between exercise and the severity of COVID illness. There is a new, large study in the BMJ of Sports Medicine that did exactly that.

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We already have a ton of research that shows us that exercise helps us feel better, mentally and physically. It prevents or improves many medical conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, certain types of cancer, dementia, and can extend our lives. That’s why the US physical activity guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly. So now let’s get to the study that was just done at Kaiser Permanente in California.

To understand this study, you have to know about something they were already doing before the pandemic. Health care workers there routinely asked all of their patients two simple questions about their physical activity. They would refer to this as the “Exercise Vital Sign.” On average, the questions were how many days per week do you engage in moderate to strenuous exercise (like a brisk walk)? The answer choices are 0 to 7 days. The second question was, on average, how many minutes do you engage in exercise at this level? The answer choices are 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, 150 or greater minutes.

Based on research, it turns out that these questions are a good measure of people’s activity levels. Not only that, but these 2 questions predict some medical problems, such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Most people already know that many health conditions are strongly correlated with a lack of physical activity — like the ones I just mentioned. Many of them are also risk factors for severe illness and death if they get COVID. Like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The researchers also looked at other important characteristics of these 48,000+ patients. How old were they? Were they male or female? Did they smoke? or have emphysema? Did they have obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or kidney disease? And more. They collected and analyzed a ton of data, then calculated the risk correlated with different outcomes. The big takeaways from this study are that consistently inactive people had a significantly higher risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death after getting COVID compared with those who were active for at least 150 minutes per week.

Also, what they found was that those who were active for over 10 minutes per week, meaning group B, did have some protection against severe illness or death from COVID, but not as much as group A. Now, this was one study, looking at the direct correlation between exercise and severity of COVID illness. More studies would be needed to confirm these findings, but it’s one more reason to encourage and promote physical activity for everyone based on what we have. Ideally, a minimum of 150 minutes per week.

Certain types of exercise can give more health benefits than others. For example, resistance training, or strength training, which includes lifting weights and calisthenics, is especially great not just for adding muscle and staying strong but to prevent osteoporosis. Then you have HITT, which is especially great for shedding fat. Then you have aerobic training, or cardio, which is especially great for shedding fat and increasing stamina. All of these types of exercises have overlap when it comes to benefits. Now I know. Some people are going to bring up this question. How does exercise, along with healthy eating, and getting good sleep, etc., how does compare to the covid vaccine?

Let’s say you exercise more than 150 minutes per week. And you don’t have the vaccine. Does that give you the same level of protection? Well, we don’t have any studies comparing the two head-ons. All I can tell you is that the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna are 95% effective against severe COVID. And I seriously doubt that exercising 150 plus minutes per week will get you that same level of protection. To do that study, you would need to do a randomized clinical trial comparing those that head-on. On that note, this new Delta variant of COVID, which is the worst COVID strain yet, is rising in the US and will soon be the dominant strain.

Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

#covid #exercise


  1. Cris A.Inoa on January 17, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    I think I’m dying 😭

  2. BD on January 17, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    It’s common knowledge that exercise ensures lower diseases that make you susceptible to various infections. Exercise, however, is not a substitute for the vaccine, for being intelligent and wearing your mask and social distancing, and for being smart and getting monoclonal antibodies and the new Merck pill the moment you know you’re COVID positive. It all chips away at what the virus can do to you. The more you’re smart about it, the higher your probability of survival.

  3. Al J Pelayo on January 17, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Love it. Great video so informative

  4. andy m on January 17, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Yes…of course

  5. steve gorkowski on January 17, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Mike great video! Understanding risks of being older as a risk factor I use vaccines, masking, using UVC sterilization and other techniques to minimize bad outcomes. The studies look promising that the work I put into controlling BMI and staying very active and eating healthy will help increase the odds of staying healthy into the future. Your facts and data in videos makes a difference in my building a defense system to limit exposure and effects of Covid. Stay healthy and most of all happy!

  6. Paco Cashtenon on January 17, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    my household was hit with Covid few months ago i made my wife and kids sit with me outside under the hot sun for 40 mins a day staying active and in 10 days we started feeling better i took the Zee pakc since im a 300lb guy higher risk i was feeling better in 7 days. GET SUN stay active guys! D3, Zinc, Quercitin, good multivitamin! God bless us all

  7. Rapsheets on January 17, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Huge link between obesity and COVID.

  8. Samuel Avila on January 17, 2022 at 9:43 pm

    I just got sick and I been active for the past 6 months and I’m taking nitric oxide and that helped me a lot with covid19

  9. Marilea Swenson on January 17, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Love your sensible information! And add Vitamin D to the formula!

  10. Herb Bowler on January 17, 2022 at 9:46 pm

    Exercise promotes health.
    Healthy people don’t get sick from covid or anything else.

  11. Alan Day on January 17, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    If my doctor could help me with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I could work out like I used to.

  12. BiLlGaTeS IsApEdO on January 17, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    I haven’t been sick in over 17 months. Still haven’t had a PCR test or the Coof Coof shot.

  13. imeldo marcos on January 17, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    Actually, i feel that , the whole idea of severity is cytokine storm.

    Kinda doubt exercise will prevent or mitigate cytokine storm.

  14. Md Tokon on January 17, 2022 at 9:55 pm

    Just wow…

  15. A S on January 17, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    UP to 95% affective. UP to

  16. tlbue32 on January 17, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Haven’t we already know this regarding the flu. Wouldn’t this apply to the Novel Viral Pneumonia aka C-O-V-I-D.

  17. Jonathan Jollimore on January 17, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Being health dose and exercise makes you more healthy . Not exercise it what it dose to your body that makes you healthy 😉

  18. Bob Bulgi on January 17, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    Does a lower resting pulse rate help with the suffocating part I ponder

  19. MsGlamourcat on January 17, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    What if you combine more than 150 minutes of exercise a week, eat actually healthy and not the SAD way and take not only supplements, but also herbal medicines specifically designed to boost immunity?

    We’re not all running on the same OS (operating system), some of us actively engage in some fairly innovative health hacks and have been for a long time, not just as some knee jerk reaction to the current health situation.

  20. Yanbin ZHUO on January 17, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    I think the answer is not really. Think about H1N1, it killed instantly the heathy and strong people. Always consider vaccine first.

  21. Doctor Mike Hansen on January 17, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    Doctor Mike Hansen’s Programs ⏩
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  22. lwot123 on January 17, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    I am an Occupational Therapist, working only COVID pts, when my husband & I got Covid we continued to run. It was hard & we did not feel like it but did it anyway. W/thin 3 days we were over our Covid symptoms. I try my best to get all my COVID pts out of bed, lay on their stomach when in bed, & exercise. We do a lot of respiratory exercises as well w/ an incentive spirometer. I find my pts who survive are the pts willing to do this plan.

  23. Ricardo Cardenas on January 17, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Governments should be promoting sport, instead of denying the access for those who are not vaccinated.
    A couple of questions doc:
    – is there any benefit against covid from consuming aminoacids such as, leucine, creatine, l-arginine?
    – is there any way to test the immune system? For example take out some blood and see how fast Covid can infect the cells?

  24. TrueBlueReef on January 17, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Yet, Joe Rogan" threw the kitchen sink at it".

  25. Lockhart's Lego Adventures on January 17, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    I had covid back in December (pre vaccine) when I was 285lbs. It was pretty bad and I thought I was a goner. Since then I’ve lost 55lbs and am double vaccinated. Exercise definitely helps as since then I’ve been around sick people and haven’t gotten ill. Exercise is so important.

  26. Jefferson Johanes on January 17, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    Oh lord, I have been rather seddntary throughout this pandemic 😶

  27. leg press on January 17, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    No not at all. A virus wants a perfect host.

  28. Kevin Poole on January 17, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks Dr Hansen

  29. You Had Me at Hello ! on January 17, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    I eat lots of chocolate 😁. Good antioxidant.

  30. Jacksirrom on January 17, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    My best friend is a lifelong endurance athlete and hardly ever gets sick. When this whole thing started I finally decided to follow his footsteps and start running. I’ve grown so much stronger over the last so many months.

  31. Douglas Hagan on January 17, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    Yes I’m doing resistance training several times a week plus bicycling at my job which is a couple hours a night before night so I’m definitely in the group a

  32. Brendan Boyle on January 17, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    Turned it off after latinx

  33. Mary K on January 17, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    Am an Australian Pacific islander this is very interesting to know. Thanks for sharing this 🙏😀👌Love your program on here🧡👍😊.I live a very active lifestyle and I have never been sick 😀

  34. Dswd Chairman on January 17, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    Doc what do you think is the effect if you got vaccinated while being infected, like 2 days before symptoms showed. Does it affect the efficacy of the vaccine , does the person gets more or less immunity ?

  35. 92ent collecter on January 17, 2022 at 10:18 pm

    I work out everyday rarely skip gym sometimes two a days and also a good professional mover , never got sick , also smoke 💨 and never got sick , know ppl that got that v and got sick 🤒 and few days got the covid , , love working out 🏋️‍♂️ I wake up to workout , 5”9 195 run a 8.0 in 7 mins , can run a 9.5 , just don’t eat junk watxh your mouth , practice being a loner , dark times to. Come , from nyc

  36. AeonsCreed on January 17, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    Does the Pfizer Vaccine replicate its self in your body?? Cause for some reason we lost blood from time time therefore iam guessing the Vaccine might decrease in your system??

  37. Lee Schloss on January 17, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    That 95% number largely relies on "mild" symptoms, not based on "severe" covid. The numbers can be fudged based on what they constitute as "covid" vs "vaccine side effect".

  38. Arlene Katz on January 17, 2022 at 10:23 pm

    Thank you

  39. Co Paloma on January 17, 2022 at 10:23 pm

    Agree that working out is important. In regard to the video, this study is purely focused on people that were already in need of medical attention? Also:

    3:51 "significant" does not sound very scientific. Would have liked a drill down of the population to the test group and the actual factual quantified results.

  40. Yt Comms3 on January 17, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    Sweden Norway and Finland do not recommend Moderna to people younger than 30 years of age.

    It is still good enough for the oldies.

  41. jesus on January 17, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    At 50 I work out about 6 hours a week.along with daily exposure to sun light. Where my wife dont work out at all. When we contracted covid 19 in dec 2020 her symptoms were all there where as for me i had symptoms of depression and tireness. Further down in july we contracted covid 19 where her symptoms were milder and i had no symptoms at all. Its nov 2021 and havent gotten the vaccine because we believe our immune system its continuing to defeat it.

  42. mike brown on January 17, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    This is my group of people right here❤️ When I read these comments it makes me smile and have hope. 48 yrs old here and 3 miles of running and 300 or more burpees a day keeps my covid away.

  43. Bissilife and Odie on January 17, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    I’d like to know whether too much exercise can be negative. I am running a marathon in a few days and training for an trail 50k in November. I’ve been fully vaccinated with Pfizer since January 2021. This Delta variant has me concerned since I’ve read that too much exercise can lower your immune system. What are your thoughts @DoctorMikeHansen

  44. Al from TX on January 17, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    I would say that being fit at least helps. I’m on day 3 of covid. Day 1 was bad. Nauseous, freezing, achy joints and muscles, fatigue, headache, fever, etc. By the next morning, the fever was gone and I felt noticeably better. Even better today. Really, other than having a mild headache and feeling like I need to stretch, I feel pretty good.

    What do you recommend in terms of exercising while you have covid? I’ve been taking walks and have felt great doing so. Just curious.

  45. MisterTutor2010 on January 17, 2022 at 10:29 pm

    In my case, I walk to work 5 days a week (1 mile each direction) and I walk to the movies on Saturdays (3 miles each direction). I workout on an elliptical at maximum resistance for 50 minutes three times a week and I lift weights 3 times a week.

  46. D S on January 17, 2022 at 10:29 pm

    I worked out 7 days per week for almost a year and Covid almost killed me. I’m 54 and unvaccinated. I lifted 4 days per week, sprinted 3 days per week. Worked out in a fasted state. Ate one keto meal per day. Took tons of supplements like C, D and more. Took a sauna for 25 minutes 7 days/week. Was 12% body fat and very muscular. No co-morbidities. The most sick I’ve been in my life prior to covid was a mild flu. I spent two months in the hospital with covid and my lung collapsed twice. Don’t think being in great health is going to save you.

  47. Kelvin Burks on January 17, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    Recovering from a stroke in July 2019 completely changed my diet to Whole food diet no cold, breathing, weight loss, caught no sars- codvic tested negative or any shows symptoms of Delta. In put in an hour per days

  48. Kyle Stephens on January 17, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    So what you’re saying is that the Covid-19 virus is natural selection?
    You’re basically saying that without directly saying that.

  49. Eduardo Hernandez on January 17, 2022 at 10:34 pm

    My dad and i work a physical labor job and walk on average 3miles/day apart from doing strenght training a few times a week, and when covid hit us the symptoms were no more than a mild cold and symptoms lasted only around 3 days. So excersise is key just make sure you add vitamins and healthy eating and you could probably get the same amount of protection as the johnson and johnson vax.

  50. Mountain N on January 17, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    My friend is a triathlete and she runs 5 miles every day as well as lift weights. She is solid hard rock muscle and she got her immune For this Covid checked and she was at a level of 200 instead of 1000 so even after being vaccinated twice, she needs to isolate herself from most people until she can get her booster shot. She’s a nurse for the VA and the doctors think that because she Exercises all the time, her body wears off her immunity too much. So she’s thinking that after her booster shot, she’s going to have to back off on the exercise.