Why did I decide to write on this topic this week? Someone in my immediate household recently tested positive for the latest COVID-19 variant. This was the third time that someone in my immediate family has tested positive for the virus. I have a 3 and 4 year old in my home; you cannot quarantine from children. The COVID-19 virus is perplexing at times and scientists are still studying its complexities. I say it is perplexing because I have yet to test positive for the virus, despite the virus being present in immediate family members on three different occasions and the fact I work in healthcare. What has helped me dodge the virus? I believe my exercise routine and (mostly) healthy dietary habits have helped me greatly. I perform 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least five days out of the week, and this does not include the time spent walking my dogs. I try to eat a balanced diet and avoid processed foods. I’m not perfect by any means, but I feel my health habits have helped ward off the disease.
We all know exercise is good for your health, but you might be wondering, can exercise help ward off respiratory illnesses?
While we can’t change our age, we may be able to influence the impact of other comorbidities to reduce the severity of illnesses such as COVID-19. For example, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular health may all be positively influenced by physical activity. What this means is that the more we move (and make healthier diet choices), our risk of certain comorbidities can decrease. As we become more physically active, there can be a significant decrease in blood sugar levels, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health. Therefore, exercise may positively influence high risk comorbidities that are associated with more severe COVID-19 cases.
Engaging in a healthy lifestyle can help improve the immune system and may even reduce mortality rates from respiratory illnesses. What is the science behind this?
- Exercise causes positive changes in antibodies and white blood cells. WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.
- Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing your chance of catching an illness.
- Body temperature rise during and after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. The temperature rise may help the body fight infection.
- Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress hormones increase the change of illness. Decreased stress hormones may protect against illness.
Our “defense” against COVID-19 through mitigation techniques such as hand washing, social distancing, and mask coverings can be helpful and effective. Yet, when it comes to overall health, our best defense may be our overall health status. We can play an active role and take more ownership of our fight against COVID-19 by proactively addressing aspects of our health. This simply can be becoming more physically active.
Physical activity does not always need to look like working out in the gym. It may be more appropriate to get your physical activity with walks, bike rides, yoga, dancing, or even taking the stairs versus the elevator. Just simply get moving! According the the ACSM, dedicating 30 minutes 5 days a week to moderate physical activity can generate significant health benefits.
You may be convinced that physical activity needs to be a top priority for yourself, but what if you are struggling with pain or limitations? A physical therapist can help you. We can assist in restoring your maximum functional ability .
Do you need help starting an exercise program to improve your overall health?
Magic City Physical Therapy
Phone (205) 602-1848
Fax (205) 293-3895