Study: 150 Minutes of moderate exercise a week can help reduce risk of COVID-19 infections By Zoey Sky for Natural Health
Regular exercise is key to your overall well-being because it can help you maintain a healthy weight.
According to a study, exercising for at least 150 minutes or two and a half hours every week can also help reduce your risk of getting infected with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
The study findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Regular exercise and COVID-19 prevention
According to research, physical activity is important when it comes to reducing the chance of severe illness because it helps boost your immune system.
Experts also believe that staying fit can help protect against COVID-19 after reviewing over a dozen international studies. The data revealed that 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise like brisk walking or dancing every week reduced the risk of a coronavirus infection by 11 percent. (Related: Study: Walking for an extra 10 minutes daily can increase your life expectancy.)
The same protective effect was observed in those who exercised for at least 75 minutes or more of vigorous exercise weekly. Activities include running and swimming or sports like football and rugby.
Those who exercised regularly were also at least 43 percent less likely to die or get severe COVID-19 compared to their peers.
The research team hopes that their findings could help guide “a public health strategy” that would encourage people to exercise regularly. The experts believe that regular physical activity helps the body fight off COVID-19 before it penetrates the body by increasing white blood cell and antibody counts.
Exercise as a public health strategy
Data suggests that the pandemic was linked to a significant increase in the number of people exercising in general. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average Briton now spends 25 minutes per day exercising, which is six minutes more than in 2014 and 2015.
The National Health Service (NHS) advised people to engage in moderate activity for 75 minutes. Alternatively, people can exercise vigorously for at least 150 minutes per week to maintain overall health.
In the latest study, researchers analyzed 16 studies carried out in Brazil, Canada, Iran, Palestine, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The studies were conducted between November 2019 and March 2022. Only studies that used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and had exercise data were included in the analysis.
Overall, more than 1.8 million participants were involved in the study. The physical activity levels of the participants were recorded through self-reported questionnaires or data from wearing heart rate monitors and other activity-tracking devices.
Most of the studies controlled for other factors, like obesity and smoking, that could affect coronavirus infection. Overall, the studies suggest that exercising regularly reduced the risk of infection by 11 percent and serious illness, defined as needing intensive care or a ventilator, by as much as 34 percent.
Physical activity also helped reduce the chance of hospitalization from all causes by 36 percent and death by 43 percent.
Yasmin Ezzatvar, a nurse at the University of Valencia who lead the research team, explained that the findings confirm how effective regular physical activity is at protecting against coronavirus. “Regular physical activity seems to be related to a lower likelihood of adverse COVID-19 outcomes,” wrote the study authors.
The results also emphasized the protective effects of regular exercise as “a public health strategy, with potential benefits to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19.”
The research team explained that exercise could help reduce the chance of getting severe coronavirus by reducing the chance of developing diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. These three conditions have been linked with reacting more strongly to the virus.
Data is scarce on why exercise limits the chances of actually catching COVID-19, but the researchers think physical activity could help increase the body’s immune defense.
Other studies suggest that exercise helps the body produce more antibodies and white blood cells, which are key to the body’s response to infection. Physical activity also reduces the release of the stress hormone cortisol that can reduce the number of disease-fighting white blood cells produced in your body.
How does regular exercise benefit your immune system?
A healthy immune system helps protect you from different disease-causing bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
It can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other diseases
Exercise can help reduce cardiovascular risk factors, prevent or delay the development of Type 2 diabetes, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and lower resting heart rate.
Having one or more of these conditions may make it more difficult for your immune system to protect you against infections and viral illnesses like COVID-19.
It can reduce stress and other conditions like depression
Working out after a long day can help reduce your stress. Specifically, moderate-intensity exercise can slow down the release of stress hormones while also positively influencing the neurotransmitters in your brain that affect mood and behavior.
Additionally, regular physical activity may offer a protective benefit against stress. This means that if you exercise regularly, you can proactively handle stressors with more resilience and a better mood.
Data suggests that stress and depression can significantly affect the regular function of your immune system, which can cause a low chronic inflammation status that favors infections, diseases and other illnesses.
It can help you sleep better
If you have trouble sleeping at night, exercising regularly can help improve both sleep quantity and quality. This is good because sleep loss can negatively affect certain parts of the immune system.
Study findings suggest that a higher risk of infection and development of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders may be linked to a reduction in antibodies and the production of inflammatory cytokines in those with a modest amount of sleep loss.