Background: Physical activity (PA) is associated with health benefits. Previous studies have shown that regular PA decreases the incidence of viral respiratory tract infections, but data on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection are unavailable. Objectives: The objective of this study is to examine the association between PA frequency and SARS-CoV-2 infection. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted on data from 1 February 2020 to 31 December 2020, using the registry of Leumit Health Services (LHS), a national health maintenance organisation in Israel. All LHS patients aged 18 to 80 years who underwent at least one RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 during the study period were included. We examined the association between PA frequency (hours per week) and being tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Results: Of 113,075 subjects tested for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR (mean age 41.6 years, 54.4% female), 17,465 (15%) were positive. In the SARS-CoV-2-negative group, significantly more subjects were engaged with PA than in the SARS-CoV-2-positive group [crude odds ratio (OR) for any PA 0.75 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.72–0.77)]. After adjusting for possible confounders, PA frequency had a significant negative association with the likelihood of being SARS-CoV-2 positive (adjusted OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.64–0.68). Moreover, as the frequency of PA increased, the ORs of being SARS-CoV-2-positive decreased (occasional PA: OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.67–0.74; PA 1–3 times/week: OR 0.62, 95% CI 0.58–0.65 and PA > 3 times/week: OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.49 − 0.59). Conclusion: Our large population-based study in patients undergoing SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR testing showed that a higher frequency of PA is associated with a lower rate of positive test results.
- Physical activity
- health benefits