So here we are, perfecting our social distancing skills while schools, sports, and other forms of social engagement are on indefinite hold because of a dangerous virus named after a (regal) crown.
The coronavirus is named as such because the center envelope is surrounded by small protein spikes called peplomers. These little protein spikes wreak havoc when they attach to lung tissue and hijack otherwise healthy tissue into building a potentially lethal coronavirus army of invaders.
Look for the ‘Just Right’ AmountBoth too much and too little exercise are bad while somewhere in the middle is just right. Scientists commonly refer to this statistical phenomenon as a “J-shaped” curve. Research has shown exercise can influence the body’s immune system. Exercise immunity refers to both the systemic (whole-body cellular response) and mucosal (mucous lining of the respiratory tract) response to an infectious agent, which follows this J-shaped curve.
Thus, limited animal and human data cautiously suggest that exercise up to three days per week, two to three months prior, better prepares the immune system to fight a viral infection.
Therefore, at least in laboratory mice, mild to moderate exercise may also be protective after we get infected with the flu virus. But while a little exercise is good, no exercise—or even too much exercise—is bad.
How Much Exercise May Be Just Right?Here are some guidelines based on just the right amount—for most people.
- Do perform mild to moderate exercise (20–45 minutes), up to three times per week.
- Strive to maintain (not gain) strength or fitness during the quarantine period.
- Do avoid physical contact during exercise that is likely to expose you to mucosal fluids or hand-to-face contact.
- Wash and disinfect equipment after use.
- If you use a gym, find one that is adequately ventilated and exercise away from others to avoid droplets.
- Remain engaged with teammates through social media, rather than social gatherings.
- Eat and sleep well to boost your immune system.
- Remain optimistic that this too shall pass.
How Much Exercise May Be Too Risky?Here are some things not to do:
- Do not exercise past exhaustion, which increases the risk of infection. An example would include marathon running, which increases the risk of illness from 2.2 percent to 13 percent after the race.
- Do not exercise if you have any flu-like symptoms.
- Do not exercise more than five days a week.
- Do not exercise in crowded, enclosed spaces.
The J-shaped (“just right”) curve suggests that exercise, like most things, is best in moderation. Stay safe out there and be creative. The game is not over, just temporarily suspended.
is an associate professor of exercise and sports science at Wayne State University, and is a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at Wayne State University. This article was first published on The Conversation.