A recent study by British Journal of Sports Medicine found that individuals who engage in regular physical activity have a lower likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection, Covid-19 hospitalisation, severe Covid-related illness and death than physically inactive individuals. The study supports the immune-regulatory impact of physical activities.
When asked about the effects of exercise on an individual’s immunity, Dr Kirti Sabnis, infectious disease specialist, Fortis Hospital, says, “Moderately intense exercises can stimulate cellular immunity by increasing the circulation and recruitment of immune cells in the body. This helps the body to prepare for a future infection by detecting it earlier. Regular exercise reduces inflammation and indirectly helps in early recovery from illness.”
While experts back the study that exercise helps in strengthening immunity, following a daily workout routine is not an easy task for many, especially, for those who juggle between multiple roles and end up sitting for long hours during the day on their laptops or other digital tools.
According to Dr. Archana Batra, nutritionist, diabetes educator and physiotherapist, it is important to engage in a short period of exercise as excessive sitting can disrupt an individual’s metabolism, increase one’s blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels and can add to the weight around the individual’s waist. “Staying in one position for long periods of time can strain the muscles in your back, neck, hip-flexors, hamstrings, and calves,” she adds.
Brian Dsouza, fitness trainer and co-founder of WOD, says there are no exercises that directly improve one’s immunity, but definitely help in strengthening muscles and joints. He also stresses upon the fact that a number of factors comprehensively produce desired results on the body and that only exercising does not result in improving your overall health and resistance towards infections.
Experts highlight that one’s dietary habits greatly influence the impact of your exercise routine. It is important to have foods rich in protein and carbohydrates. Having a meal plan in advance for your hectic schedule may help in easing out the daily tasks. Batra suggests instead of eating large meals, one can maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day with planned meals and snacks, which will also maintain the body’s metabolic rate.
“The bottom line is that you cannot build immunity with superfoods or tablets. To achieve good immunity, you will need to give time to it through a balanced combination of daily exercises and supplement it with a nutritious diet designed with local food availability,” adds Sabnis.
Batra, Sabnis and Dsouza suggest the following methods of exercising amid a hectic schedule:
1. Perform aerobic exercises at a moderate to vigorous intensity for an average of 30–45 minutes. These can include running, swimming, cycling, skipping, or a combination of these activities using high-intensity interval training.
2. Engage in compound movements, which involve more than two or three muscles at one time such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, which help in strengthening muscles and joints.
3. Try to squeeze in as many bodyweight exercises as you can by setting your watch or phone for a five-minute alarm. You can perform push-ups, planks, jumps, lunges, jogging, and other exercises.
4. Simple exercises like stair climbing and plank can also be done to maintain a fitness regime.
5. Try alternating push-ups and air squats in a tabata workout, or add some jumping jacks to add cardio / walk while taking over the phone.
6. One can also involve flexibility exercises and try adding 20 minutes yoga movements involving joints and ligaments for agility and free movement of the body.
7. Try to maintain your focus and increase your level of intensity. And when you`re finished, remember to drink lots of water.
8. When you`ve finally caught your breath, ask yourself if five minutes is enough to get your heart pumping. And, in general, doing something is preferable to doing nothing, so get moving.
9. Irrespective of the duration of the exercise, it is important to be consistent with your routine, even if it is for five to six days a week. The duration can be altered.
To stay fit, one must be both physically and mentally healthy. It is a well-known belief that exercise becomes a channel for many people to let out their frustration and feel stress-free. Experts highlight that people who exercise daily have better mental health and are emotionally stable.
Sabnis states, when a person exercises, the body releases chemicals called endorphins, which interact with the receptors in the brain that reduce our perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to morphine. Moreover, regular exercise also leads to better sleep, which in turn manages an individual’s mood better. She adds that exercise can reduce skeletal muscle tension, which helps one feel more relaxed.
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