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Covid: Two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise a week lowers risk of catching virus, study finds

Regular exercise may lower your risk of getting Covid, a large study suggests.

Physical activity has long been known to reduce the risk of serious illness by strengthening the immune system.

But researchers now believe that staying fit could ward off the infection altogether after analyzing more than a dozen international studies.

They found that 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or dancing, reduced the risk of Covid infection by 11 percent.

The same protective effect was seen in people who engaged in vigorous physical activity for more than 75 minutes per week, including running, swimming or sports such as football and rugby.

People who exercised regularly were also up to 43 percent less likely to die or become seriously ill from the virus than their peers.

Researchers said the findings could help guide “a public health strategy,” including encouraging more regular exercise.

They believe that regular exercise helps the body fight the infection before it enters the body by increasing the number of white blood cells and antibodies.

Exercising just two and a half hours a week can reduce the risk of contracting Covid, a major review claimed today.  Pictured: Boris Johnson jogs his dog Dilyn in St James's Park in February

Exercising just two and a half hours a week can reduce the risk of contracting Covid, a major review claimed today. Pictured: Boris Johnson jogs his dog Dilyn in St James’s Park in February

Analysts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that just over 1.4 million people had the virus in the week to Aug. 6.  It was down 32 percent from the week ending July 26, when the numbers were updated earlier

Analysts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that just over 1.4 million people had the virus in the week to Aug. 6.  It was down 32 percent from the week ending July 26, when the numbers were updated earlier

Analysts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that just over 1.4 million people had the virus in the week to Aug. 6. It was down 32 percent from the week ending July 26, when the numbers were updated earlier

How lockdown has reshaped the way Brits spend their time.  This graph shows how people now have more time for exercise and entertainment and socializing, gardening and housework than pre-pandemic driven, in part by saving time on the daily commute by working from home

How lockdown has reshaped the way Brits spend their time.  This graph shows how people now have more time for exercise and entertainment and socializing, gardening and housework than pre-pandemic driven, in part by saving time on the daily commute by working from home

How lockdown has reshaped the way Brits spend their time. This graph shows how people now have more time for exercise and entertainment and socializing, gardening and housework than pre-pandemic driven, in part by saving time on the daily commute by working from home

How lockdown changed Brits’ habits: people are exercising and socializing more

People are exercising and socializing more than before the pandemic, according to new official figures revealing Britons’ changing habits after the lockdown.

As more people continue to work from home and reduce their daily commute, they have also found more time for gardening, DIY and housework.

But questions about productivity remain as time spent watching TV, reading books and playing video games increases while studying decreases.

The way people use their time every day has been studied in the UK by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) since 2014/15, with the latest figures up to March 2022, when most Covid restrictions were lifted.

The average Briton now spends 25 minutes a day keeping fit, six minutes more than in 2014/15. More people started exercising to prevent boredom during the lockdown.

There was also thought to be a renewed interest in physical health during the pandemic.

People now spend about five hours a day on themselves — including spending time with friends or family, surfing the web and texting — 17 minutes more than in 2014/15.

Figures suggest the pandemic has led to a boom in the number of people exercising in general.

The average Briton now spends 25 minutes a day keeping fit, six minutes more than in 2014/15, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The NHS recommends that people get 75 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to lead a healthy life.

The latest research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicinelooked at 16 studies conducted in South Korea, Iran, Canada, the UK, Spain, Brazil, Palestine, South Africa and Sweden.

Studies date from November 2019 to March 2022 and include the very first Covid cases in Wuhan, China, up to the Omicron variant.

Only studies that used PCR testing and had exercise data were included. In total, more than 1.8 million participants were involved in the study.

Physical activity levels were recorded through self-reported questionnaires or numbers from wearing heart rate monitors and other activity tracking devices.

Most studies controlled for other factors, such as smoking or obesity, that could influence Covid infection, although “adjustment for covariates from some individual studies may not be sufficient,” the authors said.

Overall, the studies showed that regular exercise reduced the risk of infection by 11 percent and serious illness — defined as intensive care or a ventilator — by 34 percent.

Exercise also reduced the likelihood of hospitalization of any kind by 36 percent and death by 43 percent.

The researchers, led by Yasmin Ezzatvar, a nurse at the University of Valencia, said the results showed how well exercise protects against Covid.

In the paper, the authors wrote: ‘Regular physical activity appears to be associated with a lower likelihood of adverse Covid-19 outcomes.

“Our findings highlight the protective effects of adequate physical activity as a public health strategy, with potential benefits to reduce the risk of severe Covid-19.”

They said exercise could reduce the risk of severe Covid by reducing the risk of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

All three conditions have been linked to a stronger response to the virus.

Little is known about why exercise limits the chances of actually contracting the virus, but the experts suggested it could help boost the body’s immune defenses.

Previous research has shown that exercise helps the body make more antibodies and white blood cells, which are vital in the body’s response to infection.

Physical activity also decreases the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can reduce the number of disease-fighting white blood cells produced in the body.

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