Regular Exercise Could Protect Against COVID, UVa Researcher Says


A recent research from the University of Virginia has revealed the importance of regular exercise, as exercise could protect against Covid 19 pandemic said a top exercise researcher.

What Is Regular Exercise?

Regular exercise is one of the best and important things you can do for your health, as it keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy and improve your overall fitness.

So, examples of regular exercise include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. Strength, or resistance training, exercises make your muscles stronger

And breathing exercises are key part of managing some respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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In fact, the objective of such breeding exercises help rid the lungs of accumulated stale air, increase oxygen levels and get the diaphragm to return to its job of helping you breathe.

Furthermore, deep breaths also increase the quantity of oxygen that get into the body, and the volume of carbon dioxide leaving it, says Ema Swingwood, chair of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care.

So, just a day walkout may keep the coronavirus away, or at least keep it from killing you.

A review by Zhen Yan, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, showed that medical research findings “strongly support” the possibility that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of ARDS, which affects between 3% and 17% of all patients with COVID-19.

Regular Exercise Could Protect Against COVID, UVa Researcher Says

And based on available information, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20% to 42% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 will develop ARDS. The range for patients admitted to intensive care is estimated at 67% to 85%.

Dr. Zhen Yan, a professor at UVA’s Cardiovascular Research Center, says regular exercise promotes the production of special antioxidants which protect many key organs, including the heart and lungs.

A study completed before the pandemic showed these antioxidants can help protect the lungs from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS which is one of the major causes of death in patients with COVID-19.

“Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is the best to promote health,” Dr. Yan said. “We still know too little about it. I believe the benefit of exercise is far more than what we know, so enjoy exercise.”

Although the study focused on aerobic exercise, Dr. Yan says weight training is also important. So, endurance exercises — running, brisk walking, swimming, jumping — prompt our muscles to make an antioxidant that travels through the blood to our hearts, lungs and kidneys.

Another study showed increased muscle mass will also produce more of the antioxidants that protect against ARDS.

And exercise could protect against COVID 19 as the antioxidant that travels and the binds to organs, awaiting intruders.

“I use an analogy they are like a Patriot missile stationed somewhere, waiting to defend,” said Zhen Yan, a professor in UVa’s departments of medicine, pharmacology, and molecular physiology and biological physics.

Also, Yan said “All you hear now is either social distancing or ventilator, as if all we can do is either avoid exposure or rely on a ventilator to survive if we get infected.”

“The flip side of the story is that approximately 80% of confirmed COVID-19 patients have mild symptoms with no need of respiratory support. The question is, ‘Why?’ Our findings about an endogenous antioxidant enzyme provide important clues and have intrigued us to develop a novel therapeutic for ARDS caused by COVID-19.”

Powerful Antioxidant

Yan said his study revealed that these antioxidants which is also known as extracellular superoxide dismutase, or EcSOD can be transferred from a mouse genetically engineered to produce an abundance of the protein into a normal mouse, and this can then withstand acute respiratory distress syndrome, a leading factor in COVID-19 deaths.

And according to him “Exercise capacity is inversely related with all kinds of mortality. So if you can exercise better, run faster, jump higher, lift more weight, you are less likely to die. That is the best predictor for mortality, including, I think, COVID-19,” he said.

Because, this potent antioxidant hunts down harmful free radicals, protecting our tissues and helping to prevent disease

Dr. Zhen Yan is coming up with two separate ways of getting more EcSOD antioxidants into people. So, one is through developing a medication, while the other is by extracting it from one person’s blood and sharing it with another.

But we know that these take time to develop and test, Yan said anyone can start today to build their own supply of antioxidants by just getting moving and stimulate the muscles to produce it.

Because, the human muscles naturally make EcSOD, by secreting it into the circulation to allow binding to other vital organs, but its production is enhanced by cardiovascular exercise

And he said “At the gene level, a single bout of exercise, like you go running today, will start to stimulate the expression of this gene. It’s like taking medicine. One dose of medicine doesn’t mean you get enough protection,” Also, “I would say it takes a few weeks to gear up this and get to the level that you can get a benefit from this.”

Of course, study suggests that even a single session of exercise increases production of the antioxidant, and this made Yan to urge people to find ways to exercise but you have to also maintaining social distancing.

“We cannot live in isolation forever,” he said. “Regular exercise has far more health benefits than we know. The protection against this severe respiratory disease condition is just one of the many examples.”

COVID-19: Importance of Home Exercise

Benefits of Regular Exercise

  • Reduces the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • It Can Make You Feel Happier
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve your sex life
  • It Can Help With Weight Loss
  • Good for Your Muscles and Bones
  • Can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more
  • It Can Increase Your Energy Levels
  • Can Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Disease and heart attack
  • It Can Help Skin Health
  • Recover better from periods of hospitalisation or bed rest 
  • Can Help Your Brain Health and Memory
  • It Can Help With Relaxation and Sleep Quality
  • Make you feel more relaxed and positive about live

Potential Treatments

From Yan research, EcSOD can be seen as a potential treatment for ARDS and various other health conditions. For instance gene therapy, can be used to increase production of the antioxidant so that its protective presence in the lungs is enhanced in patients treating COVID, hence exercise could protect against COVID 19.

Also, in his research, mice are engineered so their muscles produce EcSOD as if they were energetic exercisers. And it was observed that EcSOD bound to all the vital organs, save the brain.

And Yan said that “the exciting thing about this finding in relationship to COVID, when we subjected the mice to a condition called ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome — this is the one I think kills most of the COVID-19 patients — we found animals are protected.”

The toxin wasn’t the virus that causes COVID-19, but Yan believes EcSOD would offer the same protection.

Yan said when he submitted his article to the scientific journal Redox Biology he wasn’t thinking about COVID-19.

But after the paper was accepted and pending revisions, he searched the literature and found that ARDS played a role a large percentage of the people who were needing ventilators and dying from COVID-19.

“This idea really became vivid,” he said.

He is looking to move his work from mice into humans, and has a biomed company making a drug that could function like EcSOD. All of that will take time to study.

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A quicker approach is through protein therapy, by extracting it from blood for transfusions.

“I have already proved the principle will work,” he said. “To do it in a better way, I need to purify the protein.”

How quickly it could be developed depends on funding for large-scale production and study, he said.

It’s not known whether it will have the same protective effects in humans as in mice.

“I have faith, because this antioxidant is produced by ourselves,” he said. “I don’t believe our body would produce anything like that for nothing.”

And finally, Dr. Yan said that “We often say that exercise is medicine. EcSOD set a perfect example that we can learn from the biological process of exercise to advance medicine,” and “While we strive to learn more about the mysteries about the superb benefits of regular exercise, we do not have to wait until we know everything.” So, exercise could protect against COVID 19.

Yan, of UVA’s Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology and Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, conducted his review in collaboration with Hannah R. Spaulding, a postdoctoral researcher at UVA. They have published their review in the scientific journal Redox Biology.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grants R01-GM109473 and T32 HL007284-43. 

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