The public health bureaucracy ignored the benefits of exercise during the pandemic

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The public health bureaucracy ignored the benefits of exercise during the pandemic

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The obsession with lockdowns caused many bureaucrats and politicians to miss several realities during the pandemic. For example, they somehow missed that COVID-19 was more deadly for the obese, and that therefore we should have been encouraging people to get out and get active, not to shut themselves into their homes.

A study of nearly 200,000 adults in Southern California found that “almost any amount” of exercise “reduced people’s risks for a severe coronavirus infection,” according to the Washington Post. “Even people who worked out for as little as 11 minutes a week — yes, a week — experienced lower risks of hospitalization or death from COVID than those who moved about less,” Gretchen Reynolds wrote for the Post.


As Reynolds notes, we already knew that “moderate exercise increases our immune response and generally helps us avoid respiratory infections or recover more rapidly if we do catch a bug.” And yet, somehow this went unmentioned during the pandemic. Instead, state and local governments shut down gyms and canceled or heavily restricted recreational sports leagues and school sports. Some cities shut down playgrounds and parks, covered (or removed) basketball hoops, or filled skate parks with sand.

On top of that, people were arrested for encouraging or living healthy lifestyles during the pandemic. Two New Jersey gym owners were arrested in July 2020 for keeping their gyms open, with the state going as far as to put barriers over the entrance to prevent people from entering. Paddleboarders and surfers were arrested in California for defying beach lockdowns.

It is possible that the study only shows correlation and not causation. It may be the case that exercise itself didn’t reduce the risk of COVID, but that the people who exercised were already generally healthier. But even this was lost in our COVID response. There was little focus on obesity being a risk factor during the pandemic, even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 78% of people who were hospitalized or died of COVID were obese or overweight.

There has been no reckoning with this fact. Even as some politicians and bureaucrats continue to impose restrictions on children in schools, there is no push among those same figures to bring the issue of obesity to the forefront of the public health discussion. Nor is there any admission that closing gyms, beaches, and parks was, in fact, a dumb and counterproductive idea.


The public health bureaucracy somehow stumbled into the wrong answer on almost every question that was raised during the pandemic. This was no exception. And yet everyone involved is keen to move on and ignore any mistakes that were made during the pandemic, so they can ruin even more people’s lives the next time politicians turn public policy over to them.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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