COVID-19 INFOGRAPHIC: ‘EXERCISE IS MEDICINE’ (BMJ)

There are over 35,000,000 reported cases of COVID-19 disease and 1 000 000 deaths across more than 200 countries worldwide.1 With cases continuing to rise and a robust vaccine not yet available for safe and widespread delivery, lifestyle adaptations will be needed for the foreseeable future. As we try to contain the spread of the virus, adults are spending more time at home. Recent evidence2 suggests that physical activity levels have decreased by ~30% and sitting time has increased by ~30%. This is a major concern as physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are risk factors3 for cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, bone and joint disease, depression and premature death.

To date, more than 130 authors from across the world have provided COVID-19-related commentary on these concerns. Many experts4 have emphasised the importance of increasing healthy living behaviours and others5 have indicated that we are now simultaneously fighting not one but two pandemics (ie, COVID-19, physical inactivity). Physical inactivity alone results in over 3 million deaths per year5 and a global burden of US$50 billion.6 Immediate action is required to facilitate physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic because it is an effective form of medicine3 to promote good health, prevent disease and bolster immune function. Accordingly, widespread messaging to keep adults physically active is of paramount importance.

Several organisations including the WHO, American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine have offered initial suggestions and resources for engaging in physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanding on these resources, our infographic aims to present a comprehensive illustration for promoting daily physical activity to the lay audience during the COVID-19 pandemic (figure 1). As illustrated, adults are spending more time at home, moving less and sitting more. Physical activity provides numerous health benefits, some of which may even help directly combat the effects of COVID-19. For substantial health benefits, adults should engage in 150–300 min of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each week and limit the time spent sitting. The recommended levels of physical activity are safely attainable even at home. Using a combination of both formal and informal activities, 150 min can be reached during the week with frequent sessions of physical activity spread throughout the day. Sedentary behaviour can be further reduced by breaking up prolonged sitting with short active breaks. In summary, this infographic offers as an evidence-based tool for public health officials, clinicians, educators and policymakers to communicate the importance of engaging in physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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