Physical activity during Covid times
With the recent surge in Covid cases in India, almost everyone is trying to find a way to avoid contracting the virus. In addition to wearing masks, sanitising, maintaining social distance, it has now been found that physical activity (PA), especially in adults, reduces the risk of a severe Covid infection.
As we are aware, the Covid virus usually infects the respiratory tract and lungs first and, consequently, other organs of the body. With the lockdowns, hospitalization, bed rest, self isolation and quarantine involved with the pandemic, physical activity has been limited. This can result in reduction of the ability of the body systems (organs) to fight viral infection and it can increase the damage risk to the respiratory, cardiovascular, immune and musculoskeletal (muscles, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, discs etc) system.
Daily exercise helps the immune system and its defence against viruses. Studies have shown that moderate exercise performed before the infection has reduced the severity of the infection and also the fatality rate.
After moderately exercising, the saliva secretion rate increases. The lactoferrin (an iron binding protein) in the saliva is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory (regulatory adjustment of the immune system). It decreases entry of the SARS infection to cells. This is not the only reason why physical activity with moderate exercise is important.
Physical activity and exercise cause movement of leukocytes (part of the body’s immune system) in blood cells and tissues, which increase immunity towards infectious viruses, including Covid 19.
Definitions of physical activity cover a variety of items of active recreation – sports, walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, yoga and aerobics. When restrictions prohibit these, there are other physical activities that can be done in and around the home – house cleaning, gardening, dancing. Carrying fairly heavy shopping bags also comes under this category!
For adults, a minimum of 150+ minutes of physical activity per week is recommended. This need not be done in one stretch, though for walking, jogging and cycling, it is definitely better to do at least 30 minutes at a time. However, even a few minutes of stretching and walking or even stair climbing, by taking a break from sitting, can be a part of physical activity.
Regular physical activity helps both the mind as well as the body. It can help with cognitive issues and depression. Physically, it can help with weight management, reduce high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. It improves muscle and bone strength and, in adults, improves balance which helps prevent falls. For children, a routine of physical activity supports a healthy development and reduces the disease risk in later life.
These days, with lockdowns looming and social distancing being mandatory, the virtual workout system is a boon. Aerobics, yoga, simple exercises and even dance steps can be done on your own, or with group participation, which could be an incentive to do your best! So, in the safety of your home, you can perform relevant exercises and PA to keep healthy and help combat the Covid 19 virus.