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How much should I exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you’re someone who relies on their daily gym routine for physical and mental well-being, social distancing can be really tough. Endorphins from exercise are critical for our happiness and physical activity plays a big role in overall health. 

As COVID-19 can specifically affect the respiratory system, there are big questions around how and how much we should be exerting ourselves physically during its outbreak. The center envelope of the virus is surrounded by small protein spikes called peplomers. These can be destructive when they attach themselves to lung tissue and cause the respiratory issues associated with the disease. Fortunately, if you’re in good health, the right amount and type of exercise are perfectly fine and encouraged. 

Mild to moderate exercise throughout the week actually boosts your immune system. A study during the Hong Kong flu outbreak in 1998 showed that exercise reduced the risk of dying. Regular exercise also tends to reduce illness severity, but too much exercise or exercising while sick is not advised. Studies of professional athletes have shown that overexertion reduces secretory immunoglobulin A, a protein used by the immune system to neutralize pathogens.

That’s a lot of science, but what it comes down to is moderation. If you’re feeling ill, stay home and rest, but if you’re feeling healthy, 20-45 minutes of exercise, three times a week is advised to keep up your physical and mental fortitude. 

Given social distancing protocols, avoid gyms and other communal exercise areas. Exercising outdoors, at least six feet from others is a great option for getting the health benefits of both physical activity and time outside. Online exercise tutorials and classes are other great options. Remember to wash equipment and clothing frequently. 

If you’re used to being a member of a team or exercise group that has ceased practicing due to COVID-19, stay in contact with other members to get ideas for staying active and share your own tips. You can even host virtual group workout sessions to maintain the social benefits of group workouts without risking your health.

Exercise has been proven to boost physical and mental health. Getting outside also has a positive effect on your mood and will help you stay healthy at a time when you’re probably less active than usual. Take advantage of the extra time in your day today to work in a long walk or online yoga class.

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