Ah ha, gotcha, didn’t I! Now that I have your attention…
Don’t read this blog unless you’re one of the millions of Baby Boomers or older adults who is currently worried about their physical and mental health. The uncertainty and social isolation of COVID-19 have wreaked havoc on these critical components of our wellbeing.
I’m going to spend the next 400 words explaining how, and why, physical activity is a vital partner as you successfully navigate this road of speed bumps we’re living through.
To Move, or Not to Move
Let’s be honest here. In the past six months, have you become better friends with that big comfy sofa? Have you caught up on your favorite Netflix series? Have your pants gotten a little tighter? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I’m not surprised. As would be expected, studies are showing the COVID-19 lockdown period has led to a significant reduction oinphysical activity levels.
Of course, you can’t go to the gym or the mall (my favorite indoor walking venue), and it’s been too hot and humid to move around outside. What’s a person to do?
The World We Live In
According to global trends, we are experiencing a major demographic shift toward an older, more obese, less physically active population. In the middle of a viral pandemic, why does this matter?
- Aging leads to negative changes in our immunity. There’s an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, more systemic inflammation, and reduced antibody response to vaccinations. And we’ve all seen the higher death rates from COVID-19 among older adults.
- If we continue on our current path, nearly 60% of adults worldwide will be overweight or obese by 2030. Obesity significantly increases the risk of three of the most important underlying conditions of COVID-19 (co-morbidities): type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension (high blood pressure). And like aging, obesity causes systemic inflammation and adversely affects our own host defense.
If we don’t get a handle on our personal wellbeing, it’s not looking good for us–now or in the future.
Physical Activity to the Rescue
But regular, moderate physical activity can begin to kick these problems to the side, promoting more control of your health. It does this by:
- improving your body’s surveillance against diseases
- decreasing damaging hormones and inflammatory responses
- boosting protective cells that circulate at a higher rate both during and a few hours after physical activity
- reducing the risk of chronic disease (remember those co-morbidities?)
- reducing illness and death from viral infection and acute respiratory illness
- helping prevent obesity, as well as weight loss maintenance
Thus exercise is an important way to enhance your body’s response to disease, and is of particular clinical value for obese individuals with co-morbidities, as well as for older individuals.
What You Can Do Now
Unless you are acutely ill, you can help your body help you stay safe and healthy. It’s important to become physically active–
- on a near-daily basis
- with 30 to 60 minutes of regular aerobic exercise (e.g., brisk walking)
- within the confines of social distancing
Find a safe, shady area to walk during the day. Or grab a partner and venture outside just after sunset when the temperature is more forgiving. Worst case scenario: get friendly with a good pair of sneakers and wear a path up and down the hallways of your home, or around the perimeter. You got this!
For more information about ways to support your immune system these days, please reach out to me.