Exercise? Yes and no 

My wife Jasmin and I were scheduled to run the London Marathon. 

It was set on April 26 — just 41 days from now. But yesterday, I received an email from the organizers: the Virgin Money London Marathon, one of the planet’s biggest events drawing over 40,000 runners, will be postponed to October 4, 2020.

Like the marathons in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Boston —  like the NBA, PBA, and possibly the Tokyo Olympics — sports are put on hold.

Which led me, while scouring the internet, to ask these questions: Should we continue our individual sports and exercise? Is running good for us during this threatening state of the Covid-19?

The quick answer is Yes. Exercise boosts the body’s immune system to make us stronger and more resistant to infections. 

In the article, “How to boost your immune system to avoid colds and coronavirus,” Amy Fleming of The Guardian wrote:

To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit. ‘White blood cells can be quite sedentary,’ says Prof Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology. ‘Exercise mobilises them by increasing your blood flow, so they can do their surveillance jobs and seek and destroy in other parts of the body.’” 

Exercise is good. But here’s a word of caution: “light to moderate exercise.”

Marathon training, like what Jasmin and I have been doing (25K to 28K runs on Sundays), is not light and moderate. It’s extreme.

Hard, continuous, long-effort exercise like marathons and ultra marathons can lower your resistance for 24 to 72 hours, and lead to increased colds and respiratory illnesses for a week or two,” wrote Amby Burfoot in the Women’s Running article, “This is Exactly How Running Impacts Your Immunity.”

In simple language: Yes, it’s good to sweat but don’t overdo it. The dictum “more (exercise) is better” is not to be applied these days when we want to be more immune to illnesses.

“Too much exercise volume and intensity turns the corner on what experts refer to as the J curve—and your risk of infection goes up,” added Ms. Burfoot.

“After a marathon, your immune state is close to that of an older, not particularly healthy individual,” warned exercise physiologist David Nieman. “And those are the ones getting really sick and sometimes even dying.”

So, what should we all do?

First, the basics, added Ms. Burfoot: washing of hands for 20 to 30 seconds several times a day; sneezing and coughing into the elbow (or best, using tissue paper); and avoid touching our face with our hands. 

Mr. Nieman added a few more tips in his article, “The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system.” He said:

1) As you workout, run and exercise, make sure that you also get ample sleep and recovery. 2) Avoid overdoing your workouts. 3) Skip the gym. Exercise outdoors. 4) Monitor yourself for early signs of sickness or overtraining and stop or adjust. 

Be safe and continue working out, my friends.


Categorized as Exercise
John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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