Exercise has always been linked to improved overall health. It generally improves muscle strength, muscle endurance, and cardiovascular fitness, among other benefits. There are also a number of studies that provide evidence of the positive effects of exercise on our immune system. A 2018 study (Campbell & Turner, 2018) shows that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of communicable (e.g., bacterial and viral infections) and non-communicable diseases (e.g., cancer), implying that immune competency is enhanced by regular exercise bouts. An article published in PubMed (Jeurissen, Bossuyt, Ceuppens, & Hespel, 2003) states that moderate exercise seems to have a beneficial effect on the immune function, which could protect against upper respiratory tract infections. There are a lot more researches done about how and why exercise boosts the immune system. Given that, it is safe to say that exercise is one of the most important things you can do now to help from getting infected and getting sick.
Staying healthy and fit is an investment. As a matter of fact, I believe it is one of the most important, if not the most important investment that you can make. You put in time, effort, and money in trying to keep your bodies healthy and in top shape. However, the gains that you get from regular exercise are not permanent. As they say, “use it or lose it”. That is particularly true with your health and fitness gains. A small study of 12 women (60-74 yrs. old), published in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation (Coelho Jr., Rodrigues, Goncalves, & Uchida, 2017) showed that a one-month detraining period was enough to reverse the gains made in a six-month strength-training program. Another study (Vigelsoe, 2015) from the University of Copenhagen found that two weeks of muscle inactivity can cause a significant decrease in muscle strength. It has to be noted that it takes as little as two weeks of “not working out” to have a significant impact on the investments that you have made in your fitness and health. In addition, the longer the inactivity goes, the more rapid the decline will be.
So, do not wait too long before you start protecting your gains. Do not let the change in routine and being at home stop you from staying in shape and keeping the gains from your investment.
Being at home (working, caring for the kids, doing more chores than usual, etc.) can be a big adjustment and can cause stress and anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, 53% of adults say they feel good about themselves after exercising, 35% say it puts them in a good mood and 30% say they feel less stressed. Additionally, 62% of adults who say they exercise or walk to help manage stress say the technique is very or extremely effective. Forty three percent of adults who report exercising specifically to help manage stress say they skipped exercise or physical activity in the past month when they were stressed. The “feel good” effect of working out is not a myth or a placebo. An article published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that, “Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, even breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins.” Also, endorphins are associated with feelings of euphoria and well-being. So, if exercise can induce those positive effects, why wouldn’t you want to exercise, right?
Now more than ever, you have to make sure that your body is healthy and your immune system is strong. Exercise is a good way to help you manage your stress levels and anxiety. If you take care of your body, your body will love you back. By continuing to workout, your immune system will be stronger, you will get some stress relief, and you won’t throw away the investment that you have put in your body. So, make it an effort to keep a fitness routine going. It will help you get through this period of quarantine while staying fit, having fun, and feeling good!
Campbell, J.P., & Turner, J.E. (2018). Debunking the Myth of Exercise Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Front Immunol (Issue April 16, 2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29713319, DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648
Jeurissen, A., Bossuyt, X., Ceuppens, J.L., & Hespel, P. (2003). [The Effect of Physical Exercise on the Immune System] (Article in Dutch, translated to English). Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd (Issue July 12, 2003). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12892009.
Coelho, H.J., Rodrigues, B., Goncalves, I.O., & Uchida, M.C. (2017). Hypertensive and Functional Capacities in Community-Dwelling Older Women: A Cross-Sectional Study. Blood Press. 2017a; pp. 156-165.
Vigelsoe, A. (2015) Six Weeks’s Aerobic Retraining After Two Weeks’ Immobilization Restores Leg Lean Mass and Aerobic Capacity But Does Not Fully Rehabilitate Leg Strength in Young and Old Men. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (Issue: June 2015), DOI: 10.2340/16501977-1961.
American Psychological Association (2008). Stress and Exercise, Exercise: A Health Stress Reliever. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/exercise.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018). Physical Activity Reduces Stress. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st.