Author: John F. Groom
Researchers are perplexed by why COVID is more deadly in the US and Europe than in Asia. They ponder questions about genes, immunity, and mutant coronavirus strains, but sometimes the simplest explanation is the best.
We already know that obesity, age, and pre-existing illness is associated with COVID mortality rates, but maybe its as simple as the fact that the respiratory systems that are least able to bear the stress of COVID are simply those that are weakest, so it’s not so much a question of age or preexisting illness or obesity, except to the extent that those things tend to cause weakness of the respiratory system.
As the famous saying goes “correlation is not causation”. COVID doesn’t kill people because they are old, or because they’re already sick, or because they’re obese – these are simply things that are easy to measure. But there is no international benchmark of respiratory or cardiovascular fitness, and even if there were, most people would not have been tested for it.
Our guess is that if you wanted to predict who would die of COVID, you could completely disregard age, preexisting illness, geography, or obesity, and simply give everyone a VO2 max test, which is the gold standard for cardiovascular fitness, and should be highly correlated with respiratory fitness.
Put simply, if you can’t breathe well, you can’t run. Most fat people can’t run well, and neither can the obese. But an older, obese person who can run is probably not going to die from COVID.
There are plenty of older people who finish marathons; they’re not going to die from COVID. There are plenty of 300 pound plus NFL lineman who can finish a game; they’re not going to die of COVID. There are plenty of people with preexisting illnesses who watch what they eat and exercise regularly. They’re not going to die of COVID.
If the problem is obesity and, more directly, lack of cardiovascular and respiratory fitness, it’s interesting to note the US public health response; to close the gyms, force people to stay at home, where they tend to be inactive and eat more junk food.
American’s are dying because they are obese and out of shape. At home, they are getting fatter and more out of shape.
Source: The Washington Post