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(NEXSTAR) – Many public health officials have encouraged people to take a walk outside during the pandemic, and now there’s scientific research that suggests they may have been onto something.

A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that physical inactivity is linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes.

The study asked 48,440 who had COVID to report their daily exercise. The study found that those who exercised regularly were less likely to have a severe COVID infection and to require hospitalization or ICU admission.

The U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines call for adults to engage in at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Exercise is associated with positive health comes, including improved health and well-being.

The study further asserts the benefits of regular physical activity, which according to previous studies, has decreased for much of the population during the pandemic, with many gyms closed and as experts recommend avoiding others and staying home as much as possible.

“In the USA, education about the benefits of [physical activity] and advice to maintain or increase [physical activity] during the pandemic has been essentially absent,” the study notes.

The study authors advocate regular exercise as a “protective” behavior for COVID-19, and encourage public health officials to advise doing so.