Exercise, Health, and Respiratory Infections, Including COVID-19

Kylie Huesman, and Lisa Ferguson-Stegall, PhD, FACSM Hamline University, Dept. of Biology, Integrative Physiology Lab, Saint Paul, MN 55104

The purpose of this study was to determine whether healthy older adults who exercise regularly experienced respiratory infections, including COVID-19, or related respiratory symptoms at the same rate as their sedentary but otherwise healthy counterparts from Jan. - Aug. 2020. Previous findings suggest that older individuals who regularly participate in moderate exercise benefit from decreased immunosenescence and therefore experience respiratory illnesses at lower rates. However, it is not yet known if older individuals who exercise regularly have lower incidence of COVID-19 or related symptoms compared to those who are healthy but sedentary. METHODS: 304 participants (age 63.7 +/- 9.5) took the 80-item anonymous online survey. Survey topics included: health history, basic demographics, exercise habits, respiratory illnesses experienced in a given year, and since January 2020, diagnosis or suspicion of CODIV-19 illness, and how the pandemic changed their exercise habits. Kruskal Wallis H tests were conducted to compare mean ranks and determine if the frequency of respiratory illness in a given year and confirmed or suspected COVID-19 illness differed by level of activity. Level of activity was defined by hours spent exercising per week, and the participant’s self-reported activity level. RESULTS: 110 participants responded that they “Never/Rarely” contract an upper respiratory illness in a given year. 246 participants responded that they “Never/Rarely” contract a lower respiratory illness in a given year. 2 participants had diagnosed COVID-19 illness, 51 had suspected COVID-19 illness, and 251 did not have or suspect COVID-19 illness. There was no statistically significant difference between the frequency of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, and level of physical activity. CONCLUSION: Although we did not find a significant relationship between regular exercise and frequency of respiratory illnesses in our study population, further investigation is warranted as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Kylie Huesman

Institution: Hamline University

Type: Poster

Subject: Nursing & Public Health

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 9
Date/Time: Wed 12:00pm-1:00pm
Session Number: 6020