Regular exercise could cut COVID-19 death risk by one third

By Tom Walker April 21, 2021

Research has found that 30 minutes of regular activity can have a massive impact on immunity / Shutterstock / Kuznetsov Dmitriy

Regular physical activity could reduce the risk of dying from infectious diseases – such as COVID-19 – by more than a third (37%), according to new research.

A study by an international team of researchers, led by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), also found that physical activity can reduce the chances of catching the virus by 31%, while increasing the effectiveness of vaccines up to ‘at 40%.

Led by Sébastien Chastin, professor of health behavior dynamics at GCU, the study would be the first in the world to examine the link between exercise and immunity to COVID-19.

It is based on a large-scale systematic review of 16,698 global epidemiological studies published between January 1980 and April 2020.

Research has found that 30 minutes of activity that puts people out of breath – like walking, running, cycling, and strengthening exercises – five days a week (or 150 minutes a week) can have a massive impact on immunity. against infectious diseases.

Prof Chastin said the results show how physical activity “strengthens the first line of defense of the human immune system and a higher concentration of immune cells”.

“This research is extremely important and could help reduce the number of people contracting COVID-19 and dying,” Chastin said.

“This is the first research to prove that regular physical activity protects you against infectious diseases.

“We have found that regular exercise when you are short of breath boosts your immunity to infectious diseases by 31% and increases the number of immune cells in the body in the first line of defense which is the mucous layer of antibodies.

“These cells are responsible for identifying foreign agents in the body without depressing the rest of the immune system, so it’s perfectly safe and protects you against infectious diseases.

“We’ve also found that if you add physical activity to your immunization schedule, it increases the potency of the immunization. We recommend a 12-week physical activity program prior to vaccination, which may result in 20-40% more effective immunization. “

The research – titled Effects of regular physical activity on the immune system, vaccination, and the risk of community-acquired infectious disease in the general population: systematic review and meta-analysis – has been published in the journal Sports Medicine.

The results have been sent to the Scottish government and other governments, public health experts and healthcare professionals around the world – including Public Health Scotland, Public Health England, the South African and Belgian governments and the world’s football governing body, FIFA.

Chastin added: “Policy makers must do all they can to fight this disease. It is not a panacea but another inexpensive tool that we can use to protect the public.

“Promoting physical activity and ensuring that everyone has access to continued physical activity is essential.

“Campaigns to educate the public about the benefits of physical activity in the fight against the pandemic should be undertaken.”

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