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Henry Ford study: Physical fitness reduces odds of severe COVID-19

a group of women on yoga mats in an exercise class

Being more physically fit may protect you from having severe COVID-19, according to a new study from Henry Ford Health System.

Researchers looked at patients who had taken an exercise stress test over the past four years, and were also diagnosed with COVID-19. That was about 250 people.

Clinton Brawner is a clinical exercise physiologist at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, and one of the study’s authors.

“We divide them up by their fitness, just four equal groups. Low fitness up to high fitness,” Brawner said. “Those individuals with low fitness had four times the risk of being hospitalized.”

Brawner said it’s not exactly clear whether physical fitness is a perfect proxy for people who get more exercise—in other words, whether it’s fitness itself, or the physical exercise that tends to accompany it, that provides some protective effect. “But you know, it’s one of those pieces of information that supports that exercise may be medicine, even in regards to getting sick from a virus,” he said.

The study was published this month in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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