Last week I discussed walking, running and cycling as ways to keep fit and use your currently surfeit of leisure time. If you don’t find any of these attractive there is a large number of alternatives.
Home exercise routines
The social and broadcast media are awash with home exercise programmes. Television gives us the Green Goddess and Joe Wicks, Radio 5X has a morning workout, there are innumerable apps to download for free and the internet is replete with exercise programmes. If you have been used to working out at a gym the chances are that it has produced an online programme for you to log into and continue with what you are used to doing. The same applies to those with personal trainers. And don’t forget that static bike which has been sitting in your garage or attic since you got bored with it. Set it up in front of the TV and watch your favourite programmes or tune into an online spinning class.
Many houses will be cleaner, better vacuumed, more spotless and dust free; like never before – and all this takes some energy expenditure.Just to remind you: one MET is the energy you expend when you are doing nothing, 3 to 6 METS is the energy level of moderate exercise and over 6 METs counts as vigorous exercise. Well, hoovering, including furniture moving uses about 5 to 6 METs. Carrying shopping up stairs might use up to 7 METs (depending on the size of your shopping basket). Housework cannot replace more sustained exercise such as cycling and jogging but it can make a useful contribution to your overall exercise portfolio.
Here are some MET values (approximate – it does depend upon on how hard you go at it) for a number of gardening tasks:
1. Digging 6 METs
2. Raking 5 Mets
3. Hoeing 4.5 METs
4. Weeding 5 METs
5. Watering 4 METs
6. Mowing 4-6 METs
If you are a keen gardener you can easily satisfy the DoH recommendations on exercise. The current period of purdah should lead to a significant improvement in the nations urban and rural landscapes.
Exercise and response to virus infections
Regular exercise and keeping fit/getting fitter are important in the fight against Corona. There is good evidence that increasing physical fitness improves the immune response to virus infections. Physically active people have a 40-50% reduction in the number of days they are ill with acute respiratory infections. There is no reason to believe that the response to Covid-19 would not be the same. Now that everyone has so much time on their hands beware, however, of too much exercise. Engaging in sustained and prolonged high-intensity exercise (think a very long, hard run or multi-hour endurance event) provokes an increase in stress hormones, inflammation, oxidative stress and susceptibility to infection. Beware also exercising once symptoms of an infection have set in. The ill effects of some virus infections are exaggerated by vigorous exercise in the early stages.
The other benefit of regular exercise is the increase in the body’s reserves brought by increased physical fitness. Low levels of fitness are associated with increased mortality from a wide variety of conditions and major operations. This has led to the development of “prehabilitation” programmes – getting fit in preparation for major operations. This could be applied to the preparation for the Corona virus – the fitter you are the better you will be able to tolerate the effects of a severe infection.
At last the government is talking about the use of antibody testing to allow those who have recovered from infection to get back to normal. More research will be needed to find out the extent to which previous infection protects against re-infection – and how long such protection is likely to last. Once this is sorted, widespread testing for antibodies will allow those who are immune to start to get back to work and kick-start our devastated economy by shopping, going to the pub or restaurant and generally returning to normal life.