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There’s a good chance that you’re self-quarantining at home right now thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and there’s no denying it can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Even if you have the resources, finding the drive to work out can be tough. But in these trying times, exercise may play a big part in a healthy immune system, a new study found.
The new analysis, published in the journal Exercise Immunology Review, looked at four decades of research on the connection between exercise and immune system function. Most have found that moderate-intensity exercise is good for the immune system, but the effects of intense exercise have been debated.
Some researchers theorize that working out hard suppresses the immune system, creating an “open window” when the risk of infection is actually higher for hours or even days after training. But a 2018 review by University of Bath physiologists Dr. Richard Simpson and Dr. John Campbell (also an author of the new study) found that there isn’t enough evidence to support that theory.
Exercise helps in the short-term by boosting a person’s immune system—something everyone should be concerned about as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on—and staying consistent with a workout regimen helps a healthy immune system stay in better shape over time.
The new article, co-authored by Campbell and Dr. James Turner, comes to the conclusion that factors like a bad diet, stress, travel, and even large gatherings for sporting events are likely to raise an athlete’s risk of infection, not the amount or intensity of the workouts they’re doing.
“People should not fear that their immune system will be suppressed by exercise, placing them at increased risk of Coronavirus,” Campbell said in a release. “Provided exercise is carried out according to latest government guidance on social distancing, regular exercise will have a tremendously positive effect on our health and wellbeing, both today and for the future.”
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise over the course of a week, or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise per week. The guide also suggests doing full-body strength workouts at least twice per week.
With gyms around the U.S. mostly closed, at-home workouts have become the norm. Fortunately, we have a few home workout routines up our sleeve that can help keep your isolation workout regimen diverse. Just wash your hands and clean your workout space when you’re done, of course.