Doctors have long touted the health benefits of physical exercise. Now, several studies indicate that physical activity also is beneficial in fighting COVID-19, according to University of New Orleans human performance and health promotion professor Marc Bonis.
Bonis’ examination of the connection between exercise and the body’s ability to defend against the coronavirus is the topic of an article published in July in Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research.
In the article titled, “Physical Activity May be a Major Deterrent of Severe Health Consequences from COVID-19: An Annotated Summary of Physical Activity and COVID-19 Research,” Bonis examines eight studies that maintain that physical activity reduces the risk of increased complications as a result of the virus.
One of the articles discusses how an extracellular enzyme, extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD), is an antioxidant agent. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by unstable molecules the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures.
Research indicates that endurance exercise increases EcSOD activity, Bonis said.
“Basically, it is saying that physical activity creates enzymes in the body that fights the virus,” Bonis said. “At best, it may or may not keep people from contracting the virus, but it certainly reduces the risk of complications resulting from the virus. In short, physical activity protects a physically active individual from a cellular level.”
People who have contracted the virus who have health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, respiratory problems, obesity and compromised immunological systems, have substantially higher complications, including death, Bonis said.
“In short, the healthier you are, the better the chances of not experiencing deleterious effects from the virus,” he said. “In general, younger people are more physically active than older people and it may be a prime reason why COVID-19 does not affect the young as much as the old.”
In most cases, viruses affect both the young with underdeveloped immune systems and the old with compromised immune systems, Bonis said. That is not the case with the COVID-19 virus; it affects the older group disproportionately, he said.
“So the take-away from this is that it is very important to stay physically active, even if we are sheltering in place at home. Don't begin to develop negative behavior practices that decrease your fitness level,” Bonis said. “This pandemic may be a great opportunity to begin a physical activity program that you have been intending to begin.”
In addition, if we become more sedentary, then we should also reduce our caloric intake to keep from gaining weight, Bonis said.
“Push-aways” from the table are just as important as maintaining physical fitness, he said.