Don't Just Rely on a COVID-19 Vaccine
As the U.S.A. enters the 6th month of social distancing and business shutdowns due to COVID-19, the future continues to look grim as the American public waits on the arrival of a safe and effective vaccine. It is still unsure how soon vaccines will proceed out of human trials and be available for distribution. In addition, the efficacy of a vaccine may be questioned as some research shows the rapid decline of viral antibodies after initial infection by COVID-19, suggesting the possibility of patients requiring frequent booster doses or risking reinfection. (1)
Facing these uncertainties, we should aim to take control of our health so that we can be prepared if it takes researchers far longer than expected to put forth a safe and viable solution. This is especially important now as summertime ends and the flu season begins. Bearing the burden of 2 respiratory illnesses can be dangerous for most individuals. To prevent this, we can focus on boosting our own immune responses, especially through exercise. Current social distancing guidelines promote “Stay-at-home orders” for the majority of the day. However, such guidelines are misleadingly dangerous as staying indoors depresses the immune system. Strictly staying at home decreases levels of Vitamin D from sunlight exposure, reduces blood circulation, increases stress, and increases exposure to blue light from electronics.
Studies show that diminished levels of Vitamin D lead to increased hospitalization for COVID-19 patients. (2)
Lower blood circulation contributes to the onset of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Mortality from COVID-19 increases with patients who have other health conditions. (3)
Chronic release of stress hormones can lead to increased chance of other illnesses, which may have compounding effects on the symptoms of COVID-19. (4)
As people stay indoors, they are likely to spend more time on electronics and thus be exposed to more blue light. Excessive blue light causes macular degeneration, which results in vision loss. (5)
A strong solution to reversing these effects is to dedicate some time to exercising outside of the house. We need to spend more time in sunlight for Vitamin D, move around to increase circulation, exercise to suppress the release of stress hormones, and be outdoors to reduce time spent with electronics. Despite gyms closing and other social distancing measures in effect, many of us are still able to follow a moderate exercise program from the safety of our own neighborhood. We can:
Take daily 20 to 30 minute walks within the neighborhood
Ride bicycles with our families a few times a week
Perform some light yoga or stretching in the sun
These are all activities that can be done in some of your early morning free time, during breaks if you are working from home, or in the afternoon after you’re done working. For the more active individuals, you can work on some calisthenics if you do not have a home gym. Uncrowded, local parks work best because the playgrounds are often equipped with monkey bars or jungle gyms that can be used as pull-up bars. The stairs can also be used to elevate certain body parts. Furthermore, research suggests that sunlight rapidly inactivates COVID-19 on solid surfaces so it should be safe to workout in outdoor parks. (6) (You can also bring disinfectant wipes just in case.) Here are some exercises that incorporate a playground:
Bulgarian split squats
Besides being a way to boost my own immunity, my exercise habits have given me structure during an unstructured time. For me, it is a simple practice that must be ingrained in my lifestyle in order to take effect. As we rapidly approach further uncertainty with COVID-19, we should focus on the factors that we can control and take the necessary preventative measures to stay healthy.