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Why now may be the best time to start exercising

It’s important that we stay active, but it's even more important to do so during lockdown. Picture: Supplied

It’s important that we stay active, but it's even more important to do so during lockdown. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 24, 2020


Over the past few weeks, while South Africa is in lockdown, we have seen a rise in fitness activities.

More people on social media are posting exercise routines or fitness challenges that they have been participating in, during this time, to keep fit.

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In case you have been wondering why the sudden fitness craze, experts say, it’s important that we stay active, but it's even more important to do so during lockdown.

Fulufhelo Siphuma, a wellness specialist, says that it's important during this time to stay fit and active to boost your immune system.

"Exercise plays a pivotal role in boosting our immune system that protects us from viral outbreaks. Plus, exercise is also known for its mood boosting abilities." she says. 

According to the 2015 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines, performing regular exercise of moderate- to vigorous-intensity has been shown to improve immune responses to vaccination, lower chronic low-grade inflammation and improve various immune markers in several disease states including cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive impairment and obesity.

Dr Jeffrey Woods provides adequate practical guidelines to a recent paper published by Zhu. Woods says: “It is safe to exercise during the coronavirus outbreak. One should not limit the multitude of health benefits that exercise provides us on a daily basis just because there is a new virus in our environment.”

“However, there may be some additional precautions to reduce your risk of infection. If you are a “social exerciser”, you might want to limit your exposure to exercise partners who have exhibited signs and symptoms of illness. The problem, though, is that infected people may be infectious before they exhibit symptoms. In some instances, wearing a mask while exercising may be a way to reduce your exposure.”

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Dr Habib Noorbhai, senior lecturer at the Department of Sport & Movement Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Johannesburg says it’s important to note that currently, the greatest risk of covid-19 infection is exposure. 

“It is, therefore, imperative that one finds creative ways to exercise while maintaining physical distancing and adequate hygienic practices. While exercise may not prevent us from becoming infected if exposed, it is likely that keeping active will boost our body’s immune system to help minimise the detrimental effects of the virus, improve our symptoms, expedite recovery times and lower the likelihood of infecting others with whom we come into contact.”

And, he adds that at this current time, it is still premature to provide specific exercise recommendations that can counteract the impact of Covid-19. “I suspect that a significant amount of immunology research will follow after this pandemic so that we can: understand the nature of this virus, and provide more specific exercise recommendations for both healthy and clinical, those who are immunosuppressed or have existing medical conditions populations.”

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