COVID-19: Fight Back with Fitness

Written by Adam York - Fri 30th Apr 2021

It’s a well-established fact that being physically fit strengthens the immune system and makes us more resilient to disease. Dr Claire Stevens, senior clinical lecturer at Kings College London: “Exercise has a major effect on the immune system – it’s a fact we have known for decades.” But can we quantify how much exercise is needed to see a significant benefit? It turns out we can, and that amount of exercise can be as small as a single moderate bout of exercise, according to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine): “Each bout of exercise, particularly whole-body dynamic cardiorespiratory exercise, instantaneously mobilizes literally billions of immune cells, especially those cell types that are capable of carrying out effector functions such as the recognition and killing of virus-infected cells.” To you & me, this means a single workout can move the white blood cells we need to fight infection, around our body to where they are needed. This means exercise has IMMEDIATE BENEFITS in the fight against COVID.
Highlights from a study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science outline some the long-term benefits of regular exercise: • Data support a clear inverse relationship between moderate exercise training and illness risk. • Exercise training has an anti-inflammatory influence mediated through multiple pathways. • Habitual exercise improves immune regulation, delaying the onset of age-related dysfunction. This means the more regular moderate training you do, the less risk you have of becoming ill, the less your immune system will deteriorate with age and the less inflammation you will suffer. These are all going to help prevent vulnerability to COVID-19.
“But what about the risk of becoming infected in the gym” I hear you say? The numbers from Test & Trace put gyms at 2.8% whilst super markets were at 11.2%, so you could say a trip to the gym is safer than a trip to Tescos. A gym is a more controlled environment than many of the places you might go to, it’s far easier for a gym with a controlled membership base to make sure that people follow safety measures, than it is for an open supermarket. Obviously I am biased as I work in the gym, but I think even taking this into account it is obvious that if you are worried about COVID-19, the benefits of attending the gym and exercising regularly far outweigh the dangers. If you lose enough weight to no longer be classed as obese, if you reduce your blood sugar below diabetic levels, reduce your blood pressure to a healthy norm, then you have moved yourself from being at higher risk to a much safer place.