Regular exercise is one of the pillars of health. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood sugar, blood pressure, controls weight, and protects against host of diseases. But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? And can it specifically protect against the coronavirus?
Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It helps lungs to flush out bacteria and viruses, allows WBCs, antibodies and immune messengers to circulate through the body more freely so that they can detect the pathogens earlier. It also causes temporary elevation in temperature, similar to what happens when you have a fever. It also lowers your stress hormones that suppress your immune system. See my past articles on this.
One study conducted at University of Virginia School of Medicine showed that exercise helped to reduce if not outright prevent acute respiratory distress syndrome (ASRD), a major cause of death in patients with COVID-19 virus. A chemical that’s called SOD is produced by our muscles during exercise that hunts down free radicals and protects our vital organs including lungs.
In particular, elderly, obese, diabetic and hypertensive patients get the brunt of this virus. They are experiencing more complications, increased chances or being ventilated and have worst outcomes. A study, published in JAMA, examined the clinical course and outcomes of 2634 patients. Being diabetic was nearly than 3 times likely to get you hospitalized and while in hospital, the survival rates were lower.
Unfortunately, you don’t hear this from the conventional sources. It seems like the only thing is either avoid exposure or rely on ventilator to survive. By the way, in the JAMA study, the mortality rates for those who received mechanical ventilation in the older than 65 age groups were 97.2%. That’s 97.2%! Another major mortality factor was lower lymphocyte levels.
Like I discussed in my previous articles, there is actually a lot we can do to proactively help our immune system and exercise plays a huge role. Research is conclusive that exercise strengthens your immune system, lowers your blood sugar, blood pressure and obviously helps to lose excess fat. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
But what do you do when gyms, parks and trails are closed? Well, you’re still allowed to go outside, just make sure to practice strict social distancing.
Walking for 30 minutes or a light jog once or twice a day is plenty to get the benefits outlined above. What about the risk? The overall risk is minimal. Outdoors are typically well ventilated which helps to reduce the risk of infection and if it’s sunny, UV light helps to kill pathogens.
Of course, exercise can be still done at home. Think stationary bike, rower or aerobic exercises in front of your TV. Maybe that dusty treadmill you thought you’d use but never did can finally get a new lease on life.
Here’s quickly on frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise. Depending on your physical health and fitness levels it can vary from mild to intense, but generally, I recommend moderate aerobic 30 to 60 minutes exercise daily, every day, or at least 5 times a week, and 2-3 times moderate (60 – 80% of one repetition max) resistance training.
Let’s make the best of what we have available to us. We can’t change the course of the pandemic, but we can change how we react to it. Take advantage of having a little extra time not driving to work and get in some daily physical activity and I can promise you, it will pay off in more ways than one!
Stay healthy and strong!
Arthur Gazaryants, DOM, LAC, PNM