Exercise May Be A Helpful Defense Against Severe COVID-19


Yet another reason to get your body moving? Research shows that those who exercise regularly may be less likely to have a severe COVID-19 infection.

“Exercise has so many benefits for our health, from keeping our heart strong and controlling blood pressure to boosting our mood, preventing the onset of diabetes and even strengthening our immune system to protect us from sickness,” says Ramsey Shehab, M.D., a sports medicine specialist with Henry Ford Health System.  “Studies show that athletes don’t get as many colds as other people, which could be because increased exercise causes their bodies to keep producing immune cells. Since regular exercise can help strengthen the immune system, it seems likely that it could also help protect from a severe or life-threatening case of COVID-19.”

Consistent Exercise Is Key

The recently published study revealed that people who spend less than 10 minutes a week exercising were more likely to be admitted into the ICU for COVID-19 than people who spend at least 150 minutes working out per week. 

“This means that in order to reap the benefits, you have to be routine about exercising,” says Dr. Shehab. “That amounts to about 20 minutes per day of moderate exercise, which could include walking, running, biking, hiking—whatever you enjoy. And if you can do more than 20 minutes per day, that’s even better.”

But there’s a catch: getting more than 300 minutes of exercise per week may actually decreased your immune response, so don’t go overboard.

Another Immune-Boosting Bonus of Exercise

Since exercise increases the circulation of our immune cells, exercise may also boost the body’s immune response to a vaccine. Studies have shown that when people exercise around the time they receive a flu shot, for example, their bodies create a stronger immune response. So if you haven’t gotten your COVID-19 vaccine yet, it can’t hurt to get your heart pumping before you do.

And, last but not least? Exercise and a healthy diet go hand and hand, so it’s always a good idea load up on plenty of fruits and vegetables, get enough sleep and drink plenty of water.

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To learn about safety precautions at our facilities, ways to get care at Henry Ford, or for details on our response to COVID-19, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Ramsey Shehab is the deputy chief of Sports Medicine at Henry Ford Health System. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine and Henry Ford Medical Center - Bloomfield Township.

Categories: MoveWell