Exercise. Some love it, some hate it, but it’s the pillar of a healthy lifestyle. And with the threat of the virus lurking at every turn, it makes it harder to train, but it doesn’t make it impossible. When it comes to fighting COVID-19, one of your best weapons alongside social distancing and self-isolation, is a strong immune system. Everyone can soak up the benefits of training, from vulnerable individuals to the most active enthusiast.
So as you strengthen your immune system and build a healthier you, here are a few of our favorite reasons why exercise can help fight COVID-19.
IT HELPS YOUR ORGANS RUN EFFICIENTLY
If you’ve ever been winded while tackling a flight of stairs or struggle to find the energy to do household chores, this one’s for you. Exercising can increase blood flow, which acts as a telephone line, transporting cells and substances in your immune system to vital organs like your heart, brain, lungs, and muscles. This allows them each and helps them run efficiently and gives you more energy for everyday tasks.
Louisiana Health System North Oaks, lists a host of nutrients and vitamins, including vitamins A, B6, C, and E to help take your immune system to the next level and give you plenty of energy. Top suggestions are protein, which is important for healing and recovery, and Vitamin A, which helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy.
IT IMPROVES BLOOD FLOW
Exercising causes your body’s antibodies and white cells to circulate more, meaning every drop of sweat you produce and every minute you spend training helps your body to build a stronger defense against your opponent: COVID-19. The New York Times shared that being fit boosts your immune system and that even a single workout can amplify and improve our ability to fight off germs.
This is an excellent motivator for those who are considered vulnerable individuals (i.e. those at higher risk of being affected by the virus). By exercising regularly and pairing that with a healthy diet, you can prevent and manage health conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Some wonder, is it safe to train, especially for those who are compromised or older? The answer is yes, as long as you feel safe and the martial arts gym or studio you train at follows the Center for Disease Control’s strict guidelines on cleaning and social distancing.
But don’t forget to walk before you run. The benefits of training may inspire you to hit the ground running, but too strenuous of a workout when you’re not used to it can actually do more harm than good. If you’re new to exercising or getting back into a rhythm after a long hiatus, start with 15-20 minutes of light exercising and work your way up to the recommended 150-300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity for adults and 60 minutes moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity for those 6-17 years old.
IT MAKES YOUR BODY MORE RESILIENT
We all know that if you’re stressed, you’re more likely to get sick because stressing out can weaken your immune system. The best medicine for stress is working out and getting those endorphins, also known as the feel-good chemicals in your brain flowing. And stressing can also lead to a lack of sleep, which can affect how long it takes you to recover from the viruses you’re exposed to. Use working out not only as a way to uplift your emotions and blow off steam, but also to beef up your immune system — and get better sleep at night.
Exercising can also help you regain a sense of control over your life, a feeling many can relate to, as COVID-19 may have you feeling like you no longer have control over your life, The American Psychological Association champions the idea that the right kind of stress can actually make the body more resilient. They found that while exercise can initially cause a spike in your body’s stress response, people tend to experience lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine after being active. It’s a fancy way of saying that exercise gives your body a way to practice dealing with stress, as, oftentimes the stress you feel while pushing through a challenging workout or move is the same kind of stress you would from other aspects of your life.
IT LOWERS YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
It’s long been proven that there’s a link between your mental health and your immune system’s health. In fact, blood pressure is one of the most important attributes that shows us the overall health of a person. And with COVID-19, having high blood pressure can make you more vulnerable to the virus’ effects than a regular, healthy person who may be affected by it. It’s been found that exercising can have a huge impact in managing Hypertension. According to a medical article, the best exercises to help get you on track are aerobics, resistance training, and concurrent training (a combination of both). On average, these types of exercises, when done regularly, have been found to reduce the systolic number or top number by 11 mm Hg and the diastolic number or bottom number, to reduce by 8 mm Hg. Which means, less shortness of breath or throbbing in the face, hands, and chest after exerting yourself.
And exploring the world of meditation and breathing exercises has also proven to be effective in calming your mind and lowering your blood pressure. Whether after a workout or when you have some downtime, do yourself a favor and take a few moments to center yourself with the help of apps like Smiling Mind, Insight Timer, and Headspace.
IT HELPS WITH WEIGHT LOSS
Another benefit is of course the most common one: weight loss. Did you notice that during the stay-at-home order, you felt a bit sluggish and maybe even packed on a few extra pounds due to rummaging through your quarantine snacks out of boredom? Do you feel less sharp? Being sedentary may be to blame. One of the most common contributors to increasing the chances of severe illness if infected by COVID-19 is obesity.
Obesity is a result of an energy imbalance: too many calories, but not as many calories being burned. And there are plenty of factors that influence our weight gain, but thanks to the virus, a big factor is an increased amount of being sedentary. Let’s face it, the majority of us have been less than active; with our longest walk being from the couch to the fridge and back. Let’s change that.
Employing a consistent work out can kickstart your metabolism, help you burn off the excess calories, and promote a healthier overall you. Research shows that being active is your best prevention against obesity, and thus the virus. It can alleviate depression and anxiety, expand your body’s total energy reservoir, and also reduce the risk of developing diseases and conditions like diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis to name a few. But of course, exercising goes hand in hand with a healthier diet. It’s hard to finish your training and not be inspired to make healthier food choices. Who wants to undo all that hard work?
Exercise and training aren’t surefire ways to ward off COVID-19 and other viruses, but they’re definitely part of the best line of defense. As you start to work out again or ramp-up your training regimen, use these tactics to bring out your strongest, and healthiest you.