Friday, March 27, 2020

Boosting Your Immune System While Exercising During The Coronavirus Outbreak

My cycling group has been discussing how to do our regular Saturday group ride after new restrictions by the government to restrict groups to not more than 10 people together. Or risk a $10,000 fine and a stint in jail for six months or both.

With non stop news regarding the coronavirus alerts, we definitely still need to exercise as we need a break from all the stress and anxieties that have come up daily. Don't know about you, I do definitely.
Beautiful morning
Personally, I feel that running or cycling outside is great for clearing my mind and releasing all that pent up energy. Getting out early in the morning, seeing the sun come up, hearing the birds and smelling the morning air is really nice for me. Both our minds and bodies need that.

So how do we stay safe and ensure that our exercise/ workouts now helps rather than suppress our immune system?

For those of you who are like me and need to keep on exercising, here are some basic guidelines. Do watch your intensity and duration of your exercise. Evidence suggests that being physically active makes you less vulnerable to falling sick. Data by researchers show that physically active people are 40-50 percent less likely to have days ill with acute respiratory infections.

Evidence suggests limiting sustained efforts greater than 60 percent heart rate max to not more than 60 minutes at a time. To get more bang for your buck, you can mix some high intensity efforts with rest or periods of lower intensity. That happens during our group bike rides. After riding hard for a while, we do slow down to recover. I guess stopping at the traffic lights counts too.

However, before you go out and train/ exercise harder with all the time you have now, take note that more is not always better. If you train too hard (a hard long run or a few hours of training), it actually leads to an increase in stress hormones, inflammatory changes and an increase in free radicals that will be harmful to your body.

Though this is a temporary effect, if you are under mental or emotional stress, not sleeping enough and eating poorly, it can make you more susceptible to falling sick.

In their laboratory, the researchers found that the stress starts when your intense efforts exceeds 60 minutes. It gets really bad after 90 minutes.

This is not the time to push your limits. Even for elite athletes, it's more about your health than your fitness levels.

There is plenty of data supporting regular, moderate exercise being protective of your health. You will get the most out of your exercise when you allow time for sufficient recovery. If you're tired, take a rest day, especially if you feel a slight hint of an illness coming. Do get enough sleep, eat well and manage your stress.

In this time of fear, danger and uncertainty, please take care of yourself and stay safe.



Nieman DC and Wentz LM (2019). The Compelling Link Between Physical Activity And The body's Defense System. J Sp Health Sci. 8(3): 201-217 DOI: 10.106/j.jshs.2018.09.009.

Nieman DC, Lila MA and Gillitt ND (2019). Immunometabolism: A Multi-omics Approach To Interpreting The Influence Of Exercise And Diet On The Immune System. Ann Rev Food Sci Tech. 10: 341-363. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-food-032818-121316.

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