Regular exercise can significantly reduce chances of catching and dying from pneumonia

BRISTOL, United Kingdom — Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs sparked by either bacteria or viruses, ranks as the fourth-leading cause of death on a global scale. Now, researcher from the University of Bristol find regular exercise may cut a person’s risk of developing or dying from pneumonia considerably.

This is the first pneumonia-centric research project to feature over one million participants.

Studies continue to show how beneficial exercising is for people of all ages. More specifically, a consistent workout routine can even reduce the risk of contracting and the severity of many infectious diseases. While earlier studies revealed a possible connection between exercise and lower pneumonia risk, relevant findings have largely produced mixed and inconclusive results.

In pursuit of a clearer answer, study authors analyzed a collection of all prior relevant published research. That process ultimately led to the finding that people who regularly exercise are far less likely to both develop or die from pneumonia in comparison to the most inactive individuals.

The results held up in both fatal and non-fatal cases of pneumonia. Remarkably, the connection between reduced pneumonia risk and exercise even remained consistent across ages, gender, and various other lifestyle factors such as body mass index, socioeconomic status, alcohol consumption, smoking, and medical history.

Pneumonia and COVID are major concerns during winter

“In this first-ever pooled analysis of all studies conducted on the topic, we found strong and convincing evidence of a relationship between regular exercise and reduction in a person’s risk of developing pneumonia as well as death from the disease,” says corresponding study author Dr. Setor Kunutsor, Senior Lecturer in Evidence Synthesis in the Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences (THS), in a university release. “Though our study could not determine the amount and intensity of physical activity, which is essential to prevent pneumonia, some of the results suggest that walking for 30 minutes once a week has a protective effect on death due to pneumonia.”

“During the winter months and with COVID-19 still circulating, developing severe pneumonia from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases is a common occurrence,” he continues. “Taking regular physical activity could reduce the risk of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 especially in at-risk groups like older adults and those with underlying health conditions.”

Study authors add the caveat, however, that these findings ultimately report an association between exercise and reduced pneumonia risk, not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship. Moreover, the team believes there needs to be more research to determine just how much exercise and of what variety is most advantageous against pneumonia.

The study is published in the journal GeroScience.