COVID in Context: Texas A&M researcher shows physical activity decreases rate of infection, death from COVID-19

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 8:32 AM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A Texas A&M University professor has discovered a link between physical activity at the county level and the instance of COVID-19 infections and deaths of its residents.

“What we found was, at the county level, the more active people were in the county, the less likely, or the fewer infections they had, and also the fewer COVID-19 deaths,” said George Cunningham, lead researcher on the project and professor of sport management at Texas A&M. “But also the most important element to the study is that the relationship between the cases and the deaths was reduced, the more active people were in the county. Physical activity has somewhat of a buffering effect related to that link from COVID cases to COVID deaths.”

Doctors have already warned that obesity is comorbidity with COVID-19, an exacerbating factor that often leads to more negative outcomes. However, Cunningham says that link does not account for the whole of this new discovery.

“Certainly there’s that link with weight and physical activity, but there’s a number of other benefits in terms of immune responses that physical activity can provide,” said Cunningham, “and it’s really probably that combination of these that are providing the buffering effects related to COVID.”

While health experts hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be over relatively soon, Cunningham says this research will still matter.

“This is not our first pandemic, and it won’t be our last pandemic. There will be other things that come up in the future,” said Cunningham. “But the good thing is, we know that physical activity—again at the community level, at the county level—can help counteract this. Those are things that we have control over.”

See the full scholarly article detailing Cunningham’s study here.

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