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Can exercise protect against covid-19?

We have all heard the main tips to protect yourself and others from catching COVID over and over again:


  1. Wash your hands regularly (and for at least 20 seconds)

  2. Wear a mask in shops etc

  3. Limit your time with others and maintain a safe distance


But what role does exercise and fitness play in the fight against coronavirus? We’ve done some investigating. Please remember that exercise should be carried out in addition to the advice mentioned above.


Obesity and coronavirus


It’s well known that the UK has the highest obesity rates in all of Europe, so it wasn’t a surprise that the UK’s deputy chief medical officer called for everyone to lose weight and get fit ahead of the (then) potential second wave of coronavirus. 


But what has weight got to do with covid? Well, the NHS has indicated that 75% of those hospitalised with coronavirus were obese or overweight. Additionally, the University of Liverpool has performed research that shows that the risk of death from SARS-CoV-2 is increased by 38% if you are obese. 


Therefore, it makes sense that working to reduce your weight if you fall into the obese category might offer additional protection against the virus.


Regular exercise protects against conditions that increase covid-19 susceptibility


The World Health Organisation has stated that undertaking physical activity regularly can reduce or help manage the following conditions:


  • High blood pressure

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Heart disease risks

  • Weight

  • Stoke

  • Various cancers


All of which are known to increase susceptibility to coronavirus


They recommend that adults undertake thirty minutes of exercise per day, and for children to be physically active for one hour each day.


Exercise and your immune system


Our immune systems are strengthened when we exercise, and right now, we want our immune systems to be as strong and active as ever. Also, looking to fitness as a coping mechanism is a much better approach than turning to comfort eating or drinking more than usual. Some coping strategies, such as an increase in alcohol consumption, can have a detrimental effect on your immune system, so that is something to bear in mind. 


We are all dealing with this situation in our own way, but it’s essential to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. 


How to exercise safely during the covid-19 pandemic


Things are regularly changing. At the moment, all gyms are shut, and while we hope to open sooner rather than later, we want everyone to stay as safe as possible. We know that it is much easier to find motivation at the gym than at home with the sofa, TV and kitchen in close proximity. 


Here are four top tips for exercising safely during the pandemic:


  1. Get outside as much as possible - Yes, it’s cold, but going out for a run or walk outside will help keep you active and will also help to fight the winter blues.

  2. Shake things up - We could all do with a little more fun right now, so why not shake your exercise routine up a little? How about a spot of tap dancing? Or play an active virtual game? Dust off that Wii or Kinect you brought all those years ago

  3. Try short burst exercise - Working from home means substantially less movement than before. Break up your working day with short burst exercises every hour or slightly longer sessions twice a day. 

  4. Don’t overdo it - If you haven’t exercised much before, don’t dive in at the deep end. Just as you would at the gym, start small and work your way up. 


While regular exercise can’t protect you from the virus as much as frequent hand washing, mask-wearing and socially distancing can, it can play a role in protecting you from the virus in other ways.