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physical activity defense against covid-19

How Physical Activity Can Help In Your Defense Against COVID-19

by Brian Whittington, PT, DPT, CMTPTLeave a Comment

Remaining safe during a global pandemic is a top priority for most people, and many of us are now overly-familiar with the common practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These recommendations, including social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing masks and limiting the size of gatherings, are all mitigation techniques to assist in the defense of COVID-19. Yet another important aspect to consider in the fight against COVID-19 is the role that physical activity and metabolic health plays if you contract the virus.

COVID-19 Risk Factors

To dive further into this topic, we must first note that there are several risk factors for those who contract COVID-19 that subsequently makes it a more significant health concern for them. The elderly, immunocompromised, and those with multiple comorbidities are at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.1 A comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions that a person has, and when it comes to patients diagnosed with COVID-19, those individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease are at a particular increased risk of hospitalizations.1 This is concerning considering there are 34 million diabetics, 108 million individuals with high blood pressure, and 121 million Americans with cardiovascular disease who are living with those conditions.2,3,4

The Power of Physical Activity

While we can’t change our age, and may have limited capacity to alter our immunocompromised status, we may be able to influence the impact of other comorbidities to reduce the severity of COVID-19. For example, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular health may all be positively influenced by physical activity. As we become more physically active, there can be a noted reduction in blood sugar levels, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health.5 Therefore physical activity may positively influence these high-risk comorbidities that are associated with more severe COVID-19 cases.

At times, our fight against COVID-19 may feel like a defensive battle and rightly-so. Our “defense” through mitigation techniques such as hand washing, social distancing and mask coverings can be helpful and effective. Yet, when it comes to our overall health, our best defense might be a good offense. We can play an active role and take more ownership of our fight against COVID-19 by proactively addressing many aspects of our health. All those benefits simply come by becoming more physically active!

So how can physical activity help in the fight against COVID-19? Well, in some sense, a healthier and more physically active society can be a contributing factor in fighting and defeating COVID-19. We can see this as an opportunity to make sure we are addressing all the potential means and strategies of fighting COVID-19.

Where Do I Start?

Sometimes just knowing where to begin can feel overwhelming, so it’s crucial to have proper perspective. There are 168 hours in a week and dedicating just 5 of those hours, only 3% of your total time, to moderate physical activity can generate significant health benefits.6 Physical activity does not always need to look like working out in the gym. It may be more appropriate to get your physical activity with walks, bike rides, kayaking, dancing or even taking the stairs instead of the elevator. The idea is simple, just find ways to get moving!

On the other hand, you don’t have to think of physical activity only in terms of how much time you are getting per day. It can be easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed with trying to meet daily standards. Instead, you can think about the amount of physical activity needed per week. This may be more practical as somedays our schedule may allow for longer periods of physical activity while other days only a little. That’s okay as we still gain benefits from an accumulative amount of physical activity over a week’s period even when that activity is broken up into 10 minute segments.5 This may be much more achievable!

The importance of physical activity has even caught the attention of the World Health Organization as they have changed their physical activity recommendation from “nice-to-do” to “must-do” for world governments.6 Physical activity should always be a top priority but this has become even more apparent in the midst of a global pandemic.

Physical Therapy Can Help

You may now be convinced that physical activity needs to be a top priority for yourself, but what if you are struggling with pain or other physical limitations? Don’t worry, this is where physical therapy can help you! An Athletico Physical Therapist works hard to assist you in restoring your maximum functional ability. In its simplest form, physical therapy is here to keep you moving. If you are currently not able to engage in physical activity to your highest potential contact your nearest Athletico for a free assessment to begin your journey to get back to being physical active. Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth service.

Request a Free Assessment

Physical therapy is usually the thing you are told to do after medication, x-rays or surgery. The best way to fix your pain is to start where you normally finish – with physical therapy at Athletico.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1. Dwyer, M. J., Pasini, M., De Dominicis, S., & Righi, E. (2020). Physical activity: Benefits and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 30(7), 1291–1294. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13710
2. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Diabetic Statistics Report 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts About hypertension. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm#:~:text=Nearly%20half%20of%20adults%20in,are%20taking%20medication%20for%20hypertension.&text=Only%20about%201%20in%204,have%20their%20condition%20under%20control.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
5. Roschel, Hamilton, Guilherme G. Artioli, and Bruno Gualano. “Risk of increased physical inactivity during COVID‐19 outbreak in older people: a call for actions.” (2020): 1126-1128.
6. Stamatakis E, Bull FCPutting physical activity in the ‘must-do’ list of the global agenda. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1445-1446.

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