I am not a Prepper; although I have, unfortunately, seen firsthand the devastation an epidemic can cause, I have never resorted to prepare for what seemed inconceivable. Duly ignoring the advice from friends and colleagues on the front-line.
And it’s this advice I have been thinking about, because to be honest, it seems to me that the most basic and effective thing we can do to give ourselves and those around us a fighting chance with something as anonymous as SARSCov2 (COVID-19), is to be as physically and mentally healthy as we can be.
We’ve all seen it, some people seem to coast through cold and flu season without so much as a symptom, what is their secret, what makes their immune system so efficient.
Well, according to David Nieman, Professor of Public Health at Appalachian State University, “if you look at all the lifestyle factors that decrease the number of days you suffer from the common cold, being a physically active and fit person is the most important.”
Professor Nieman should know, he has spent years looking closely at the links between exercise and health. And this seems totally logical to us, right? After all, we all know we feel better following exercise, but does that mean exercise has a direct relevance to our immune response, our virus fighting capabilities.
According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine the simple answer is yes. It determined that of 1002 people who were studied, those who exercised at least 5 days a week reduced the chances of coming down with a cold by over 50%. But just as importantly, if they did get one, the effects in reported symptoms was far less severe.
Now this all sounds very positive, but what actually happens to you when you exercise? Well, it turns out that exercise causes your body to increase the pace at which antibodies and white blood cells circulate through it, allowing them to seek out and attack bugs more rapidly. In addition, exercise also reduces stress hormones allowing your immune system to remain more efficient. And recent studies indicate that raising your body temperature may kill germs in their tracks. But as an aside, our immune system is very dependant on our muscles for production of Regulatory T Cells or Tregs. These Tregs have a role in regulating or suppressing other cells in the immune system. Tregs control the immune response to self and foreign particles. Which as it happens is actually very important. Furthermore, Muscle plays a central role in whole-body protein metabolism by serving as the principal reservoir for amino acids. And it so happens that amino acids can be used as fuel by the immune system
This is good news indeed, because all of us have the ability to engage our body more. But before you leap from your chair, in your current state of isolation and contact your local gym, fitness trainer or burst into a 2-metre social distance “safe-bubble” run, it is important to realise that there is a bit more to it than that. According to Mark Moyad, M.D. M.P.H director of preventative and alternative medicines at the University of Michigan Medical Centre, the benefits of exercise are all about getting it right. He says, “like many other things, there’s a sweet spot” and we need to be mindful about the adverse effects. According to A. Jeurissen and his article on “The effects of physical exercise on the immune system” as published in the Dutch Medical Journal, the effects of over-strenuous exercise causes an impaired immune response, making you more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections. And for those of us that have been following the events of the last 4 months, this all sounds too familiar.
So, exercise is clearly a must-do, albeit in moderation and in a sustainable habit-forming kind of way. Because, and let’s be honest here, for years we’ve been hearing about the likelihood of a new virus, a pandemic and its probable effects. We’ve grown up with disaster movies depicting the state we are currently in with eerie accuracy. And above all, although we’re all hoping for the best outcome, I will never again ignore the opinions of knowledgeable people who suggest this may last a long time, there may be mutated strains or we may soon face an entirely new virus all over again.
Call us today at NZKM Fitness to take that real step to achieve long-term goals, because a healthy lifestyle is a small but necessary part of being prepared.
I guess I am a Prepper after all.