Exercise and acute respiratory infections: might regular exercise help protect us?
Chapman, Sarah E.
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Among the rapid changes that coronavirus (Covid-19) has brought with it is a new enthusiasm for exercise. My husband, who has spent much of his career working on strategies to get the nation exercising, has looked on in astonishment at each person striding past our window, kitted out for a walk, and at family units yomping the footpaths through the nearby fields. Many of us are even supplementing our daily allowance of outdoor exercise with indoor sessions stretching and jumping in front of YouTube, ‘doing Joe Wicks’ added to our lockdown schedules and vocabulary. But might embracing regular exercise (at last!) offer us some protection from acute respiratory infections? This is an important question, and especially right now. Of all acute illnesses, these are the most common. They range from the common cold to illnesses such as pneumonia and now coronavirus. Regular exercise offers health benefits that include better maximal oxygen uptake (VO₂ max), muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition. In theory, it could affect our susceptibility to acute respiratory infections by improving our immune function and stress resistance.