COVID-19The Relationship Between Cardiopulmonary Fitness, Immune System & COVID-19

The Relationship Between Cardiopulmonary Fitness, Immune System & COVID-19

Did you know that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide today?

Lack of Exercise or insufficient exercise also increases the risk of many health conditions, including: heart disease, hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and depression, and lack of exercise is even considered as deadly as smoking.

It is estimated that 10.5 percent of heart disease cases and 18.7 percent of colorectal cancer cases in the United Kingdom are caused by insufficient exercise. A study conducted by the University of Cambridge showed that under-exercise caused twice as many early deaths as obesity.

In the current environment, people with poor body image such as obese, overweight, and unhealthy people are at increasing risk for viral defenses. Obese or overweight people are almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 and other types of influenza.

Studies have also shown that people with type 2 diabetes or other metabolic syndromes have a tenfold higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

For decades, the underlying health status of the world’s population has been in a state of concern.

Increased globalization and technological improvements have created sedentary lifestyles that, combined with poor dietary habits and consumption behaviors, have resulted in more than 60% of adults being overweight or obese in the United Kingdom and the United States alone, where excess body fat disrupts the immune system and induces chronic inflammation and is associated with cytokine storms that cause acute respiratory distress syndrome, a common form of influenza and other respiratory viruses.

The Relationship Between Cardiopulmonary Fitness, Immune System & COVID-19

This relationship was demonstrated in the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, where 61% of inpatients who died from H1N1 influenza were obese, and obese adults were found to transmit influenza A virus 42% longer than non-obese adults. This suggests that obesity also plays an additional role in the spread of the virus.

This association becomes even more apparent when looking at the current pandemic. In the UK, 72.7% of the first 2204 NHS intensive care unit patients admitted to COVID-19 were overweight or obese.

Thus, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is an important link between obesity and a weakened immune system. However, it is important to note that metabolic diseases or dysfunctions (e.g. hypertension, high cholesterol levels, etc.) can also affect people with normal weight and BMI, so anyone can be metabolically unhealthy.

People with normal weight but poor metabolism have three times the risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events, and ten times the risk of dying from COVID-19, compared to people with normal weight and healthy metabolism. Therefore, there is no such thing as a healthy weight, only a healthy person.

Exercise Can reduce The Risk of Major Diseases

According to research compiled by the NHS, exercise can reduce the risk of major diseases by up to 50 percent and the risk of early death by 30 percent. Physical activity can also enhance self-confidence, mood, sleep quality and vitality, and reduce the risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other studies have shown that regular exercise can even reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a disease that affects about 17 percent of people with COVID-19.

Research conducted by Dr. Zhen Yan, a leading exercise researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, has shown that antioxidants called extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD) play an important role in eliminating harmful free radicals in the body, protecting the body’s tissues and helping to prevent disease.

Exercise Can reduce The Risk of Major Diseases

Interestingly, the production of EcSOD increases even after only one session of aerobic exercise, and conversely, the levels of this antioxidant are lower in patients with acute lung disease, heart disease and kidney failure.

Dr. Richard Simpson, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Immunobiology at the University of Arizona, agreed with Dr. Zhen Yan’s study and pointed out that with each exercise session, especially whole-body cardio, millions of immune cells are immediately mobilized, and they are able to identify and kill virus-infected cells.

Professor Sanjay Sharma, who specializes in hereditary heart disease, further discussed the link between exercise and improving the immune system, noting that there is ample evidence that moderate exercise for 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a week can strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of viral infections.

He also pointed out that numerous scientific studies have shown that good physical activity before the development of a potentially serious infection such as influenza can prevent people from dying from influenza. In fact, this was seen during the 1998 Hong Kong flu, as people who continued to be active were more likely to survive than those who did not exercise.

So how can we quantify, measure, track and improve our health so that we can better protect ourselves from disease and ultimately live a long and healthy life? The answer: Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF).

Scientific research on the benefits of exercise and the way our bodies respond to it has established that CRF is an accurate measure of someone’s physical health. In short, CRF tells you how effective the body is at delivering oxygen to where it is needed most.

CRF quantifies a person’s functional capacity. CRF values reflect the overall health of the body, which comes from the combined function of multiple physiological systems. It reveals how the heart, lungs, blood vessels, muscles and nervous system work together.

Therefore, CRF is related to health. Low levels of CRF are associated with a high risk of premature death from all causes, while high levels of CRF are positively associated with a decrease in premature death from all causes.

VO₂max (maximum oxygen intake) is a measure of CRF, and VO₂max is the number of milliliters of oxygen per kilogram per minute that your body requires to function. Therefore, the value of your VO₂max is related to the functional capacity of your heart.

CRF has actually been around for a long time, but it is not really understood and promoted in medical, health and fitness circles.

Exercise Can reduce The Risk of Major Diseases

This began to change in 1996 with the publication of Blair et al. who examined the effects of cardiopulmonary fitness and other precursors on cardiovascular disease in men and women and showed that individuals with high levels of CRF were at less risk of cardiovascular disease and early death than those with poor cardiopulmonary fitness.

Over the past two decades, the number of studies assessing the association between CRF markers, mortality and other health outcomes has increased exponentially. In a growing number of studies, CRF has been shown to be a better predictor of mortality risk than traditional factors such as hypertension, smoking, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

A growing body of evidence has now established that low levels of CRF are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and mortality from various cancers.

Thus, although CRF is beginning to be widely recognized as an important marker of health, it is currently the only major indicator that is not routinely assessed in clinical practice.

For all of these reasons, routine assessment of CRF is of critical importance to human health, and the implementation of a program of exercise to improve an individual’s cardiopulmonary fitness will be of specific relevance and effectiveness in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.

In 2016, the American Heart Association issued an official scientific statement recommending that clinicians routinely measure CRF as a vital sign along with traditional measures such as temperature, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate.

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