Improving Physical Activity During the Pandemic

Last month, a Kaiser Permanente study of nearly 50,000 people with COVID-19 concluded that consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes among infected adults.

In other words:

  • Results of the study show inactivity is strongly associated with poor COVID-19 outcomes
  • Physical activity provided strong protection from hospitalization, ICU admission, and death among COVID-19 patients
  • Even being active some of the time was associated with lower odds for severe disease; suggesting that any amount of physical activity has benefit.

And all these conclusions made even after including variables such as obesity and smoking in the analysis!

At at time when we are all still grappling with the effects of this pandemic, the losses and the fear, it is both encouraging and profound to find that we have yet another tool in our “box of tricks “ to help fight this disease. And one that is within our reach.

But far and beyond COVID, we have always known that physical activity is key in both disease prevention and management.I am sure that most, if not all, can attest to having received advice from their doctor to increase their level of physical activity. 

And what better time to talk about physical activity than in Spring! This is my favorite season in Houston, everything looks new and fresh and green, and the weather is perfect for outdoor activities! The mornings and evenings are cool enough for vigorous outdoor activities, and the days aren’t so bad either. 

Some of the benefits of physical activity include, but are not limited to: 

  • Boosts energy and endurance making one more productive at whatever they do, be it household chores , office work, driving etc..
  • Promotes better sleep.
  • Helps prevent/reduce the risk of many health problems such as Heart disease, Diabetes, High blood pressure, Stroke, High Cholesterol, Arthritis. It is also crucial in their management.
  • Regular physical activity is mood boosting and improves mental health, helps in coping with stress and even help prevent or manage Depression and Anxiety
  • Weight control and management
  • Improves muscle and bone strength, joint flexibility and balance and is instrumental in preventing falls particularly in the elderly.
  • Keeps the brains sharp and delays the onset of some forms of dementia.
  • Reduces the risk of some types of Cancer such as colon, breast, uterine and lung cancer.
  • Improves sexual health.
  • Exercise is both fun and social; it gives a chance to meet new people, connect with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, and simply engage in activities that make you happy.
  • Increase ones chances of living a longer, and definitely healthier life 

The list is by no means exhaustive…. but you get the drift…. Physical activity if good for you!

How much exercise is ideal?

  • Aim to be physically active daily
  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity OR 75 minutes of vigorous intensity per week
  • Include muscle strengthening activities on at least two days a week
  • Reduce time spent sitting or lying down/ break up long periods of not moving with some activity
  • It is ok to mix and match activities; a mix of moderate, vigorous and/or very vigorous intensity
  • It is ok to break down your activity to short sessions through out the day as time allows. 

How can you make physical activity part of your regular routine?

  • Make small changes to everyday activities to make them more active; take the stairs instead of the elevator; park further from your destination and walk
  • Walk across the hall to your coworker instead of calling or texting or emailing.
  • Include family in your activities: kick a ball around with your kids in your backyard or the park; have a dance-off with your kids at home.
  • Plan active social activities such as hiking, cycling, walking.; jog along your kids as they ride  their bicycles or scooters.
  • Include friends in activities to make them fun and social: take a dance class together, have a jogging or walking partner; catch up with a friend or your spouse as you walk. 
  • Include pets such as dogs in your activities: dog walking, run with your dog: join your neighbor to walk their dog, etc.
  • Join a club that plans physical activities
  • Make exercise fun by listening to your favorite music, watching TV; mix different types of activities to keep things fresh and fun
  • Have a plan and a variety of activities to choose from even when the weather is bad; walk in the mall, climb stairs; gym workouts.

Physical activity is good for you, it makes every aspect of your life better, and there are opportunities all around us to engage in regular physical activity. If you have any concerns before initiating physical activity, talk to your physician about what is safe for you. If you are looking for a new primary care physician, visit our doctors page to find a direct primary care physician near you!

About the Author

Dr. Esther Ngare, family physician and founder for Brazos Springs DPC

Dr. Esther Ngare is a family physician and founder of Brazos Springs Direct Primary Care in Stafford, Texas. She is board-certified in Family Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh McKeesport Family Medicine Program.During her Residency she received an award for exemplifying outstanding teamwork and patient advocacy and was Chief Resident in her final year. Her passion is to form close partnerships with her patients to promote individualized plans of care that address their unique health challenges. She seeks to encourage and promote healthy lifestyles in her patients.

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