The past two years, dealing with the rona has shown us the importance of being physically fit and eating a balanced diet as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are primary risk factors for severe illness, impaired immune function, and decreased lung capacity. A consistent exercise routine can eliminate many of these risk factors and even improve immune, pulmonary, and cardiovascular health resulting in a stronger you, better able to deal with illness, and most importantly higher self esteem.
In Amaya Almazan’s study “Post Covid-19 Syndrome & Potential Health Benefits of Exercise“, She discussed how immune function is improved through exercise. Exercise induces metabolic and functional adaptations of T-lymphocytes and monocytes, cells that are essential to energy metabolism. When a person exercises, those cells combat the formation of inflammation caused by expanded fat tissues (overweight/obesity) and sedentary lifestyles. This reduction of inflammation delays the natural gradual degradation of the immune system, keeping immune function close to maximum capacity.
It has also been discovered that exercise improves the body’s ability to respond quicker to SARS-COV-2 antigens through maintenance of T cells & natural killer cells. Sebastien Chastin reinforced this point with his study “Effects of Regular Physical Activity on the Immune System, Vaccination, & Risk of Community-Acquired Infectious Disease in the General Population.” He found that higher levels of regular physical activity were associated with a 31% risk reduction of community-acquired infectious disease and 37% risk reduction of infectious disease mortality. Physical activity is described as aerobic (walking, running, cycling) or resistance (weight training, body lifting) or a combination of both done 3-5x per week for an average of 30 minutes at a moderate to vigorous intensity level.
Exercise also alleviates pulmonary (lung) complications. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs include endurance/strength training, physiotherapy, patient education, nutrition counseling among other treatments to improve pulmonary function. In Rainer Gloeckl’s study “Benefits of Pulmonary Rehabilitiation in Covid-19” 50 patients with either moderate or severe covid-19 were examined before and after rehab. They measured their 6-minute walk distance and lung function. Additionally, quality of life was surveyed. After three weeks of pulmonary rehab, patients saw significant improvements in all categories shown in the table below.
|Moderate Covid-19 Group||Severe Covid-19 Group|
|6 Minute Walk Distance||+48 meters||+124 meters|
|Quality of Life||+5.6 points||+14.4 points|
Julian Alcazar, in his study “Effects on Concurrent Exercise Training on Muscle Dysfunction and Systemic Oxidation in Older People with COPD,” observed 29 patients aged 66-90. They were given a 12 week exercise program or placed in a control group. It was found that those in the exercise program increased oxygen uptake by 14%, work rate by 37%, and max muscle power by 13%. These studies show the powerful effect that consistent exercise has on pulmonary function and capacity.
Exercise has been associated with significant improvements in cardiovascular health as well. In Kelsey Pinckard’s study “Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health,” she studied energy expenditure, fat loss, and other factors. She found that non-obese individuals, over the course of a year, who increased their energy expenditure by 16-20% decreased body fat by 22.3% and also reduced LDL cholesterol, C-reactive proteins (inflammation marker), and all risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
Exercise also improves cardiovascular health by enhancing mitochondrial biogenesis & function. This enhancement prevents oxidative damages that cause ischemia-reperfusion injuries (tissue damage caused when blood returns to tissue after period of lack of oxygen) in the heart. Exercise also stimulates the release of myokines which have anti-inflammatory function, increases fatty acid oxidation, glucose uptake, insulin secretion and sensitivity. All things associated with reductions in weight, blood sugar, and increased energy levels.
The Choice is Yours
This shows how important exercise is to your physical health as it improves many of the body’s systems: immune, pulmonary, and cardiovascular. People of all ages and weights can take advantage of the health benefits provided by a regular exercise routine, and people who are overweight/obese will take significantly higher achievements with their routines. Remember a basic exercise routine is made of 30 minutes of aerobic or resistance training 3-5x per week. That is the equivalent of 1 tv show or 10 songs. To find added motivation, try working out with friends/family or that one person who will keep you accountable.