With the current COVID-19 pandemic you may have noticed on social media and the news that exercise is being promoted for everyone to undertake now more than ever. With recent news stating that social distancing measures will still be in place for at least another month our new reality won’t be changing anytime soon. Whilst binging on the latest TV on online streaming series has its place there is a reason why exercise should also take priority in your weekly if not daily routine and the fact that it is considered essential by the government. Why?
Exercise HELPS (not hinders) your immune system
There has been a long-standing misconception that exercise can suppress the immune system when it does the exact opposite. Exercise has been shown to improve our innate and adaptive immune system. Research shows that people who are active get fewer upper respiratory tract infections per year. Also, the activity of natural killer cells (which find virally infected cells) increases after a bout of exercise and travels to sources of inflammation in the body. Exercise has also been shown to improve the way you respond to vaccines. Exercise induces a pro-inflammatory environment which encourages processes such as increasing lymphocytes to the vaccination site and enhances antigen uptake. This means the initial immune response may be more efficient.
Exercise benefits your mental health
Exercise is considered essential. You are allowed to leave the house yay! Exercise helps with your mental health. Some of the benefits are:
- Reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins
- Improves energy levels
- Combats sleep disturbance
- Reduces systemic inflammation
- Creates opportunity for mastery of certain skills
- Improves self-efficacy
- Improves overall health and feelings of wellbeing
The list goes on. A landmark study by Singh et al. (2005) looked at progressive resistance training versus GP care alone (medication and counselling). They found that in 61% of the subjects who were randomised to high-intensity progressive resistance training (80% of 1 rep max) found a 50% reduction in depressive scores which was significantly higher than low-intensity progressive resistance training (20% of 1 rep max) and GP care alone. Interestingly, there seemed to be a dose-response relationship. This means the higher volume and intensity the greater the reduction in depressive symptoms.
Exercise allows you to socially interact whilst also improving your fitness
It is important to stay connected during social isolation. Find an exercise class online. Many clubs have taken their fitness regimes to be conducted on Zoom or other platforms to maintain member’s fitness and maintain their routine. Reach out and get involved, it will allow you to not feel so isolated when we must stay home. Find something that you enjoy and stick to it. You are also allowed to go out and exercise with one other person, as long as you maintain social distancing. Reach out to a friend or family member and go for a jog, do a circuit workout circuit via facetime, flow through some yoga in your local park. Whilst being at home more often increases our sedentary time which will have a flow-on effect to our health. Stay connected and try to increase your activity on most days of the week. Your body will thank you for it.
- Black Dog Institute
- Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service – ph: 1800 512 348
- Absolute Balance Youtube exercise videos
- Home Workout Videos
(B. HM. GradDipClinExPhys)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)
Campbell JP, Riddell NE, Burns VE, et al. Acute exercise mobilises CD8+ T lymphocytes exhibiting an effector-memory phenotype. Brain Behav Immun. 2009;23(6):767–775. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2009.02.011
Ledo A, Schub D, Ziller C, Enders M, Stenger T, Gärtner BC, Schmidt T, Meyer T, Sester M. Elite athletes on regular training show more pronounced induction of vaccine-specific T-cells and antibodies after tetravalent influenza vaccination than controls. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2020 Jan 1;83:135-45.
Pascoe, A.R., et al. The effects of exercise on vaccination responses: A review of chronic and acute exercise interventions in humans. Brain Behav. Immun. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2013.10.003
Singh, N. A., Stavrinos, T. M., Scarbek, Y., Galambos, G., Liber, C., & Fiatarone Singh, M. A. (2005). A randomized controlled trial of high versus low intensity weight training versus general practitioner care for clinical depression in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 60(6), 768-776. doi:10.1093/gerona/60.6.768