While COVID countermeasures such as vaccinations and masks continue to stir debate, a growing body of data leaves little doubt about another factor that can be instrumental in protecting people against the virus: physical fitness.
Staying fit can offer a shield from COVID’s more severe consequences. By the same token, research shows that being out of shape and, especially, overweight can turn a bout with the coronavirus into a life-or-death struggle.
Indeed, a disproportionate share of those hospitalized for COVID throughout the pandemic have been significantly overweight.
It offers all the more reason — and could even be a 2022 New Year’s resolution — for each of us to commit anew to physical as well as mental health.
There is in fact extensive research into the link between obesity and serious complications from COVID. The latest findings on the subject came out last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — zeroing in on the alarming U.S. trend toward obesity among youths.
CDC researchers found that a majority of teenagers hospitalized with coronavirus were obese. Their study sampled 915 patients ages 12 to 17 from hospitals in areas with high COVID-19 incidence — Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Louisiana and Texas.
“Compared with patients without obesity, those with obesity required higher levels and longer duration of care,” the CDC researchers concluded. “These findings are consistent with previous reports (4) and highlight the importance of obesity and other medical conditions as risk factors for severe COVID-19 in children and adolescents.”
In a commentary published this week in our news affiliate Colorado Politics, Colorado-based nursing professor and nurse research scientist Kenneth Oja writes, “At least 78% of patients who were hospitalized, required a ventilator, or died from COVID-19 were obese or had an obesity-related disease.”
Oja also offers this wake-up call: “A 25% reduction of the prevalence of obesity in the United States may have reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations by 6.8%, admissions to the intensive care unit by 10.7%, and mortality by 11.4%.”
Townhall.com noted in its report on the new CDC research that White House pandemic point man Anthony Fauci has cited obesity as a key comorbidity significantly complicating the virus’ impact.
Fauci told national talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt that the “mechanical movement of the diaphragm to expand and contract your lungs” is difficult for the obese because, “they don’t have the capability of easily inhaling and exhaling because of the constraints on their plasticity of the lung.”
Townhall says Fauci also told Hewitt, “obese people, particularly morbidly obese people, have a much higher rate of the other underlying comorbidities, which get a serious outcome. That’s diabetes, hypertension, heart disease — the incidents in a morbidly obese person of those other diseases is much higher than the general population.”
Coloradans — overall, among the healthier Americans — should make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape if they aren’t already, and then to stay in shape. If they need help shedding unhealthy weight, help is widely available. Their first step, even before exercise, should be to consult a health care provider.
Losing weight not only is a hedge against COVID but also, of course, a ticket to better physical — and mental — health in general. It’s a way to fend off the worst of the pandemic — while signing a new lease on life.
The Gazette Editorial Board