Saadeh M, Calderón-Larrañaga A, Vetrano DL, von Rosen P, Fratiglioni L, Welmer AK
Aging Clin Exp Res 34 (1) 235-247 [2022-01-00; online 2021-10-30]
One's physical function and physical activity levels can predispose or protect from the development of respiratory infections. We aimed to explore the associations between pre-pandemic levels of physical function and physical activity and the development of COVID-19-like symptoms in Swedish older adults. We analyzed data from 904 individuals aged ≥ 68 years from the population-based Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen. COVID-19-like symptoms were assessed by phone interview (March-June 2020) and included fever, cough, sore throat and/or a cold, headache, pain in muscles, legs and joints, loss of taste and/or odor, breathing difficulties, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and eye inflammation. Muscle strength, mobility, and physical activity were examined in 2016-2018 by objective testing. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models in the total sample and stratifying by age. During the first outbreak of the pandemic, 325 (36%) individuals from our sample developed COVID-19-like symptoms. Those with slower performance in the chair stand test had an odds ratio (OR) of 1.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1-2.1) for presenting with COVID-19-like symptoms compared to better performers, after adjusting for potential confounders. The association was even higher among people aged ≥ 80 years (OR 2.6; 95% CI 1.5-4.7). No significant associations were found between walking speed or engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and the likelihood to develop COVID-19-like symptoms. Poor muscle strength, a possible indicator of frailty, may predispose older adults to higher odds of developing COVID-19-like symptoms, especially among the oldest-old.