Even only one session of physical exercise can reduce the effects of COVID-19 infection

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The leading cause of death in patients with COVID-19 is acute respiratory distress syndrome. Regular and sustained physical activity can reduce this risk, according to top researchers and they urge people to exercise as much as possible, which could become a potential treatment approach.

Studies conducted by Zhen Yan at the Center for Skeletal Musculature Research, University of Virginia School of Medicine have obtained results that support the possibility of exercise preventing or at least reducing the severity of ARDS.

From the information available so far, it has been estimated that 20% to 42% of patients admitted for COVID-19 will develop ARDS and that between 3% and 17% of all patients with COVID-19 are affected by severe respiratory symptoms. The percentage of patients admitted to intensive care was also estimated to be between 67% and 85%.

Regular exercise can help prevent or reduce the severity of respiratory symptoms in patients with coronavirus. A single exercise session increases the production of an antioxidant called EcSOD and helps with reducing the effects of COVID-19 infection.

Oxygen is indispensable for life, but in certain situations, it has harmful effects, due to the formation and activity of several chemical compounds, known as free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ORS). Fortunately, there are cellular enzymatic and nonenzymatic mechanisms to neutralize ORS. Superoxide dismutase (SODs) is a family of antioxidant metalloenzymes and is part of the enzyme system’s defense. Several classes of intracellular and extracellular SOD called EcSOD have been identified. This powerful antioxidant hunts harmful free radicals, protecting our tissues and preventing disease. Our muscles naturally form EcSOD, secreting it into the circulatory system to allow it to bind to other vital organs, but its production is improved through exercise.

A decrease in this extracellular antioxidant EcSOD is observed in several diseases, including acute lung disease, ischemic heart disease and kidney failure. Laboratory research on mice suggests that blocking its production aggravates heart problems, while increasing it has a beneficial effect. A decrease in EcSOD is also associated with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Research suggests that a single session of moderate exercise increases antioxidant production. That’s why people are encouraged to find ways to do regular physical activity regularly, all while still maintaining social distance. “We cannot live in isolation forever”, Zhen Yan said. “Physical activity has many more health benefits than we know. Protection against this severe respiratory disease is just one of many examples.”

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