Our immune system is a highly complex network of cells and molecules designed to protect us from infections and diseases. It is proven that physical exercise has an important and very positive impact on the normal functioning of this system.
The regular practice of physical exercise, of moderate to advanced intensity, demonstrated marked improvements in immune responses to vaccination, decreased low-grade chronic inflammation and improvements in different markers in individuals with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancer, HIV, among others. .
The current COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions about how exercise can be beneficial against infections, contributing to greater immunity. This discussion became more pertinent with the limitations in people’s daily lives, among them, for example, the restricted access to public gyms and gardens, where they normally
praticamos atividade física.
To aggravate this situation, there are the known negative effects of social isolation and confinement on immunity.
Glucocorticoids (hormones directly involved in the stress response), such as cortisol, are elevated during these periods and can inhibit many functions that are critical to our immune system. T cells (cells of the immune system that also belong to the group of white blood cells) have a viral response to regulate the immune system. When we are under the effects of stress, these cells are reduced, so the ability to fight infections or diseases is also reduced.
Another extremely important factor is that the cells maintain their ability to reorganize themselves so that they can “watch” the vulnerable areas in our body (for example, the upper respiratory tract and the lungs) to protect the organism. against viruses and other pathogens. This process is also important to minimize the impact of the virus and streamline the viral solution, if we are infected.
Each visit to the gym to do, in particular, exercises that stimulate the cardiorespiratory system, instantly moves billions of cells of the immune system, especially those capable of recognizing other infected cells and eliminating them.
The cells of the immune system that are mobilized with physical exercise thus increase immune surveillance, which, in theory, makes us more resistant to infections. Exercise also releases several proteins that can help maintain immunity, especially muscle-derived cytokines, such as IL-6, IL-7 and IL-15.
In the short term, physical exercise can help to deal with pathogens and, in the long term, to regulate and delay the changes that occur in the immune system with aging, thus reducing the risk of infections.
The practice of physical activity is especially beneficial for seniors who are the most susceptible to infections in general, but also identified as the population particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
In short, it is essential to have and maintain levels of constant activity, within the recommendations. Physical exercise, in addition to having a direct positive effect on cells and molecules of the immune system, is also known to counteract the negative effects of stress on immunity. In times of coronavirus and in the conditions in which we find ourselves today, the most important conclusion is to reduce exposure to other people who may be carriers of the virus. However, we must not ignore the relevance of remaining active and healthy now, in the context of a pandemic, and throughout our lives.
Therefore, it is essential that we find ways to continue practicing physical exercise, maintaining social distance and adequate hygiene measures.
Chief Medical Officer