New study finds exercise may increase the effectiveness of your Covid-19 vaccine: Here’s how to get the biggest benefit

New study finds exercise may increase the effectiveness of your Covid-19 vaccine: Here's how to get the biggest benefit

The greatest protection from adverse outcomes after infection with Covid-19 is attributed to vaccination. A new study finds that the effectiveness of shots may be enhanced by physical activity.

New research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that higher levels of physical activity are associated with higher efficacy from the initial series of Covid-19 vaccinations.

“The higher the exercise dose, the greater the protective effect, it’s fairly obvious,” John Patricius, a professor of sports and exercise medicine at Wits University in Johannesburg and a co-author of the study, tells CNBC Make It.

So how often and to what degree should you exercise to get the most out of your Covid-19 vaccines? This is what Patricius and his colleagues discovered.

2.5 hours of exercise per week may increase protection against severe outcomes from Covid in vaccinated people

Researchers found that the vaccinated people with the greatest protection against severe outcomes, such as hospitalization, after contracting the Covid-19 virus, followed these exercise guidelines:

  • Repetition: They completed at least 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, of physical activity each week.
  • severity: Their physical activity was of moderate intensity, which means that their heart rates were between 70% or 79% of their maximum heart rate while exercising.

Participants in this group were 2.8 times less likely to develop severe outcomes from Covid-19 than people who rarely Playing sports. Or, in simpler terms, their vaccines were 25% more effective at protecting them from these outcomes than sedentary people.

In a video included in the study, visual demonstrations of weightlifting and running were highlighted as some of the exercises the group participated in.

“It’s possible that at a higher level of physical activity, you get more positive stimulation of that immune response,” says Dr. Elizabeth Joy, senior medical director of wellness and nutrition at Intermountain Healthcare, who was not involved in the study. .

“This, in turn, leads to a significant reduction in disease burden.”

However, even vaccinated people who exercised between 60 minutes and 149 minutes were 1.4 times less likely to develop cases of Covid infection.

Here’s how the study was conducted

The researchers analyzed data collected from South Africa’s largest health insurance company for nearly 200,000 vaccinated adults in the country, including both men and women. At the time of the study, only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was available.

The data included Covid-19 PCR test results from February to October of 2021. The number of minutes of physical activity, step count and heart rate data for each person was tracked using a wearable device.

Exercise may reduce the chances of severe Covid outcomes in unvaccinated people, too

“We did another study that showed that in people who had Covid — and those who didn’t get vaccinated — those who engaged in the recommended 150 minutes per week of exercise had better results,” says Patricius.

“They were hospitalized less often, fewer were in the intensive care unit and on ventilators and fewer of them died.”

Similar to his research, a study was conducted of more than 48,000 participants with Covid, before vaccines became available, to determine whether exercise was associated with a reduced risk of severe outcomes from the disease.

Researchers found that those who, prior to infection, had been walking or exercising consistently were more likely to be hospitalized for Covid.

“This adds to that evidence base that people who are more physically active have better health,” says Joy.

While it has been widely studied that exercise can reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases such as dementia and cancer, “physical activity is also a successful strategy for preventing infectious diseases such as Covid-19,” Joy notes.

When it comes to being physically active for better health outcomes, she says, “nothing is bad, and some is good [and] More is better.”

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