Physical fitness protects you from Corona

Strengthen your immune system

If you do moderate exercise, your immune system becomes stronger and is better able to fight off infections.

If you are inactive for a few days however, your immune system lowers it's activity. This makes sense, because the body believes that if it is not active, it will be exposed to fewer germs. It therefore saves energy by reducing the activity of the immune system. But if you suddenly get confronted with harmful viruses or bacteria, you are less protected.

On the other hand, if you are moderately active, your immune system will increase its activity. The so-called natural killer cells become more active and the body produces more of these protective defence cells. These killers are made to find and destroy virus-infected cells. They also help to strengthen the body's defensive response and activate specific immune responses.
In addition, exercise also makes the neutrophil granulocytes stronger. These cells also kill invaders and prevent infection. In physically fit and active people, they are better able to release substances that can destroy dangerous microorganisms (the so-called oxidative burst).

Physical fitness protects you from pneumonia

Because of this, people who are physically fit are less likely to get sick. This is because their immune system can fight germs more easily. If an infection does occur, it is more likely to have a mild course in fit people.

The big problem with the corona virus - pneumonia - therefore occurs less frequently in fit people. This is because the diseases are more often confined to the upper respiratory tract. This means, the disease is restricted to the throat and the bronchial tubes instead of affecting the lungs and it is therefore a lot less dangerous.

A Finnish study showed that people who are physically very fit only suffer from pneumonia about half as often as people who are out of shape (read the study here).


Physical fitness and risk for pneumonia

Oxygen uptake and risk for pneumonia

Physical fitness = high oxygen uptake

Being more physically fit means nothing more than being better able to absorb oxygen.

Oxygen uptake is in fact the most important way to measure physical fitness scientifically.

Being able to absorb and burn a lot of oxygen, is what you need to move quickly and endurantly.

If you fall ill with respiratory tract diseases, you will therefor benefit from a higher level of fitness. Because if your body that can absorb a lot of oxygen in the first place, it can of course cope better with damage to the airways.

If you are physically fit, you have more respiratory reserves

For example, if you are able to run 10 km, this means that you are able to absorb a lot of oxygen. Much more than your body needs at rest.

If you fall ill with corona, which restricts lung function, you still have large reserves. So you can continue to take in sufficient oxygen and do not get into a critical state, even if your lung function is impaired.

If, on the other hand, you already get out of breath doing everyday things, a respiratory infection will hit you much harder.

The infection can then cause your oxygen intake to be so low that you need a ventilator to get enough oxygen into your body. And this is a main reason for the many deaths in Italy: There are more critically ill people than there are ventilators.

So the better your ability for oxygen intake is, the higher your chances for survival are.

The older you are, the lower your oxygen uptake

One reason why mainly older people die of corona is that their oxygen uptake is worse than that of young people. If you do not exercise, your oxygen uptake drops by about 1-2% per year. This means that at 80 years of age you can only absorb half as much oxygen as at 20, which means that you are at greater risk.

On the other hand, if you do sports, your oxygen intake remains better. With moderate training, it is no problem to have the oxygen intake of an average 30-year-old at 70 years of age. And to stay healthier accordingly!

Don't overdo it

However, there is a restriction: if you train too hard, your immune system goes down, too. Therefore, after a highly intensive training, the so-called "open window effect" occurs. This means that for a few hours you are more vulnerable, especially to respiratory diseases.

If you train very intensively, you should therefore pay special attention to hygiene and keeping your distance from other people immediately after training.

Training too often and for too long has a similar effect. Endurance athletes who train for very long periods of time are therefore more likely to develop respiratory diseases, too.

Don't train while you are sick!

However, all these beneficial effects of sports are only preventive. If you already suffer from a respiratory disease, you should take it easy.

If you train with a cold, you can provoke medical complications. It happens over and over again that young, apparently healthy athletes suffer from heart inflammation and die very suddenly. The most common cause for this is that people continue to train even though they have a cold.

Online personal training

You will probably not be able to do your usual exercise during the corona crisis. You might also not know how to train at home.

I can help you choose the right things to do and make a training plan so you can stay active at home. Call or write me today to get your individualized training plan. Contactless and without risk of infection.

Christian Bitzer, Sporttherapeut für Atemwegserkrankungen (DVGS)

Christian Bitzer, Exercise Therapist for respiratory diseases (Certified by the German association of Exercise Therapy, DVGS)

Phone: +49 176 66 86 91 51


Christian Bitzer