Regular physical activity can protect you from viral diseases like COVID-19

COVID-19 is not the first viral epidemic and it is not going to be the last one either. Humans have always dealt with such issues, but in the future they may become increasingly more common. One reliable way to make your body more resilient to such threats is regular physical activity, as this new study led by Glasgow Caledonian University has shown.

Regular physical activity reduces the risks of viral infections. In fact, you are less likely to die from COVID-19, if you exercise often. Image credit: Brandon.wiggins via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A large team of scientists reviewed 16,698 worldwide epidemiological studies published between January 1980 and April 2020. They looked into the relationship between physical activity and resistance to viral infections. Researchers found that regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying from viral infections by 37 %. Furthermore, physically active lifestyle reduces susceptibility to such viruses by 31%. Scientists say that this effect is important in the COVID-19 times as well. And the good news don’t stop there – you don’t even have to exercise that much to enjoy these benefits.

Scientists found that 30 minutes of activity five days a week or 150 minutes per week is enough to enjoy the benefits for the immune system. Exercises don’t have to be very intense either – just something that would make you slightly out of breath. Jogging, playing basketball, swimming – all are good choices to reduce the risk of death from viral diseases. Furthermore, being physically active increases the efficacy of vaccination against viral disease such as Covid-19. Scientists didn’t look too deeply into the causes of this effect. However, they suspect that it has something to do with the unique anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects of physical activity.

Sebastien Chastin, lead author of the study, said: “This research is hugely significant and could help to cut the number of people contracting COVID-19 and dying from it. It is the first piece of research that proves regular physical activity protects you against infectious disease.”

This study, of course, has huge implication on how we see viral pandemics like COVID-19. However, this pandemic is coming to an end (or so it seems). Scientists would like you to think about other viruses that might cause worldwide pandemics in the future. Or just common viral diseases that are spreading among us in regular times as well. Exercising to strengthen your body’s defences against those threats is just good strategic thinking.

Physical activity has a lot of advantages – it helps your body and your mind. You can definitely find time for it. Begin with taking longer walks and soon enough you will be jogging. Or playing basketball with your friends. It is a healthy habit to have, so why wouldn’t you make sure to develop it?


Source: UCL