This One Daily Activity Can Help You Recover From Coronavirus

A little exercise could be the very thing that gets you back on your feet after COVID-19.

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The coronavirus pandemic has inspired countless people to make their physical fitness a priority. In fact, according to a 2020 report from Research and Markets, the online fitness equipment market has seen sales growth of 170 percent during the coronavirus lockdown. Even better news? That extra exercise may confer an unexpected benefit: helping people recover from COVID-19.

In a 2008 study published in PLoS One, researchers looking at what role fitness played in influenza recovery among a group of 24,656 adults in Hong Kong, found moderately frequent exercise to be associated with lower rates of influenza-related mortality. And today, some experts say that physical fitness may have a similar protective effect in cases of COVID-19.

Coronavirus causes severe lung inflammation and "moderate exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation," explains William Li, MD, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation. While Li concedes that the mechanism by which exercise decreases systemic inflammation isn't entirely clear, even to experts, he notes that, "Exercising does increase the diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome [and] these bacteria can produce anti-inflammatory substances."

In a 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that he worked on, Li and other researchers found pronounced damage to the blood vessels lining the lungs in coronavirus patients—a side effect of the illness that he suggests exercise may be able to help with. "Exercise can help improve recovery of damaged blood vessels and could be beneficial for helping patients bounce back from COVID-19," he says.

Mature Man Removing Protective Mask From his Face Outdoors in Public Park.
iStock

In addition, exercise has been shown to boost the protective properties of the flu vaccine in older adults, giving medical experts hope the same might be true for a coronavirus vaccine.

In a March 2020 interview in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, exercise scientist Jeffrey A. Woods, PhD, associate dean of research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, explained that the protective levels of antibodies provided by the flu vaccine were maintained for a longer period of time in older adults who engaged in regular cardiovascular exercise than those who didn't. Woods also recommended the introduction of moderate exercise into the routines of otherwise sedentary people during the pandemic, noting that "even a single exercise bout can be beneficial."

What's more, Li says that exercise may even benefit those who are currently ill, though he cautions that they should still take precautions and stay inside and away from others during the duration of their illness.

"There's no problem with exercising if you have COVID-19," he says. "However, if you are feeling short of breath, have chest pain, unsteadiness or muscle aches, it's wise to take it easy until your body is on the mend." And if you decide to take your workouts outside your home once you've recovered, Li says to continue social distancing, wear a mask when possible, and avoid touching your face until you can wash your hands. Want to maintain your safety the next time you break a sweat? Make sure to avoid The One Exercise That Makes Your Coronavirus Risk Skyrocket.

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