Health and Fitness by Mollee Tscholl
The immune system is defined as a complex network of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects it against disease. As human beings, having a healthy immune system is critical to our ability to combat illness and fight off diseases. Right now, caught in the middle of a pandemic, in which our bodies are waging war against a brand new adversary — COVID-19 — the need for strong immune systems is more important than ever. The CDC and MDH continue to promote mask-wearing and social distancing as a means of warring off COVID-19, but while these things help protect us from exposure, they don’t help strengthen the immune system. What, then, can we be doing to prepare our bodies to put up a good fight, should the virus or another illness or disease find us and want to do battle?
Believe it or not, one of the best things we can do is get regular exercise! As a gym owner, trainer and long-time exercise enthusiast, this is perhaps one of the biggest reasons it was hard to stomach Governor Walz’s most recent executive order, again, closing down fitness centers in Minnesota, at the start of the winter season no less. Looking specifically at COVID-19, it’s estimated that 20% to 42% of hospitalized patients will develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS); for patients admitted to intensive care, this range increases to 67% to 85%. A recent review, however, by Zhen Yan of the University of Virginia School of Medicine found medical research findings to “strongly support” the possibility that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The production of an antioxidant called Extracellular Superoxide Dismutase (EcSoD), which is naturally produced in our muscles, and works by hunting down harmful free radicals, is known to increase with cardiovascular exercise. EcSoD, has been found to be deficient in patients who have not only acute lung disease, but also those who have ischemic heart disease, kidney failure and osteoarthritis. So, in short, regular exercise, can help our bodies fight off or at the least, reduce the severity of COVID-19 and other various illnesses and diseases.
Stress, a common cause of a weakened immune system, is high right now due to all of the changes and restrictions we are facing from this pandemic. The good news is stress can also be combated through exercise! Chemicals called endorphins, which are produced by the body to combat stress and pain, are released into the body during exercise. At the same time, cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, is lowered through exercise. So, remember, during stressful times, exercise can be a game-changer in keeping you physically and mentally strong. Get that sweat on! Move that body!
A few other things you can do to strengthen your immune system are getting an adequate night’s sleep, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and/or taking a multi-vitamin, and maintaining social connection with others. So, in a time where social gatherings are discouraged, make those phone calls, schedule those Zoom meetings, write that long put-off letter you’ve been meaning to send!
We at SNAP Fitness wish you all a happy and healthy 2021, one in which we can soon get back to doing the things and seeing the people we love!
Mollee Tscholl is co-owner of Albert Lea’s SNAP Fitness and TMJ Elite Fitness.