EXERCISE TO FIGHT COVID-19
Does physical activity have an impact upon your susceptibility in contracting Covid-19 and can physical fitness control the severity of your symptoms? The latest studies are suggesting that this could be that case (1).
With the most recent social restrictions and people staying at home, accompanied by the gym closures, are we reducing the opportunity to increase our body's immune system, protecting us from Covid-19 related complications?
Many studies have demonstrated the extensive benefits of physical activity (2,3). But despite the substantial scientific knowledge of the associations between physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness, and their impact on the immune system’s antiviral response. Has there been too little emphasis placed within the public domain?
Inside our cells we have the ‘mitochondria’, which are the powerhouses or engines of the cell, producing our energy and regulating the metabolism. But they are also one of the first lines of defence when it comes to fighting off infections (4,5). Having low ‘mitochondrial fitness’ and low cardiorespiratory fitness may be increasing the risk of infection when our bodies come to deal with COVID-19. As physical activity keeps the mitochondria fit and healthy to be able to respond to cell conditions by controlling their metabolism, resulting in changes in the efficiency of the immune defence, cell death regulation and energy production (6).
Mitochondrial responsiveness to physical activity enables the mitochondria to be ‘better trained’ in their efficiency, integrity and adaptation to stressors, therefore being referred to as ‘mitochondrial fitness’ (7). Enhancing mitochondrial fitness and cardiorespiratory fitness through physical activity enhances our immune system, antiviral responses following infection and improves immune defence efficiency which may improve its response to COVID-19 (8).
Older populations and people suffering from cardiovascular disease will suffer the most from COVID-19 through their reduced mitochondrial fitness. Based on the strong association between mitochondrial fitness and cardiorespiratory fitness, the recent study’s (1) hypothesis is that regular physical activity is a potential preventive tool, especially to those with chronic diseases that are considered more susceptible to COVID-19.
Credit to Burtscher et al (1).
1. Burtscher J, Millet GP, Burtscher MLow cardiorespiratory and mitochondrial fitness as risk factors in viral infections: implications for COVID-19British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 24 November 2020.
2. Burtscher J, Burtscher M. Run for your life: tweaking the Weekly physical activity volume for longevity. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, 2020
3. Nieman DC, Wentz LM. The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. J Sport Health Sci 2019;8:201–17
4. Burtscher J, Cappellano G, Omori A, et al. Mitochondria–in the crossfire of SARS-CoV-2 and immunity.
5. Lundby, C., Jacobs, R.A. (2016). Adaptations of Skeletal Muscle Mitochondria to Exercise Training. Experimental Physiology, 101 (1), 17-22
6. Burtscher J, Millet GP, Burtscher MLow cardiorespiratory and mitochondrial fitness as risk factors in viral infections: implications for COVID-19British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 24 November 2020.
7. Hood DA, Memme JM, Oliveira AN, et al. Maintenance of skeletal muscle mitochondria in health, exercise, and aging. Annu Rev Physiol 2019;81:19–41
8. Zbinden‐Foncea H, Francaux M, Deldicque L, et al. Does high cardiorespiratory fitness confer some protection against proinflammatory responses after infection by SARS‐CoV‐2? Obesity 2020;28:1378–81