Amazing ‘Lockdown’ Exercise Benefits & Will I Lose My Gains?
Being in isolation without access to the gym can be highly frustrating if you’ve put much effort into your body and mind over the years, yet studies are showing that keeping up regular exercise is vital during lockdown and give us reasons to be positive regarding the loss of gains because of the huge benefits exercise offers.
A study from leading physiologists Dr James Turner and Dr John Campbell at the University of Bath’s Department for Health shows that daily exercise is key in keeping up a healthy immune system capable of fighting viruses.
Conventional wisdom states that regular moderate-intensity exercise is beneficial for immunity, but there is a view that more arduous exercise can suppress immune function, leading to an ‘open-window’ of heightened infection risk in the hours and days following exercise.
In a benchmark study in 2018, this ‘open window’ hypothesis was challenged by Dr Campbell and Dr Turner.
They reported in a review article that the theory was not well supported by scientific evidence, summarising that there is limited reliable evidence that exercise suppresses immunity, concluding instead that exercise is beneficial for immune function.
They say that, in the short term, exercise can help the immune system find and deal with pathogens, and in the long term, regular exercise slows down changes that happen to the immune system with ageing, therefore reducing the risk of infections.
In a new article, Dr Turner and Dr Campbell debated whether the immune system can change in a negative or positive way after exercise, and whether or not athletes get more infections than the general population.
The article concludes that infections are more likely to be linked to inadequate diet, psychological stress, insufficient sleep, travel and importantly, pathogen exposure at social gathering events like marathons — rather than the act of exercising itself.
What About Coronavirus?
Dr Turner said: “Our work has concluded that there is very limited evidence for exercise directly increasing the risk of becoming infected with viruses.
“In the context of coronavirus and the conditions we find ourselves in today, the most important consideration is reducing your exposure from other people who may be carrying the virus.
“But people should not overlook the importance of staying fit, active and healthy during this period.
“Provided it is carried out in isolation — away from others — then regular, daily exercise will help better maintain the way the immune system works — not suppress it.”
Co-author, Dr John Campbell added: “People should not fear that their immune system will be suppressed by exercise placing them at increased risk of Coronavirus.
“Provided exercise is carried out according to latest government guidance on social distancing, regular exercise will have a tremendously positive effect on our health and wellbeing, both today and for the future.”
Regular moderate intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, running or cycling is recommended, with the aim of achieving 150 minutes per week.
Longer, more vigorous exercise would not be harmful, but if the capacity to exercise is restricted due to a health condition or disability, the message is to ‘move more’ and that ‘something is better than nothing’.
Will I Lose my Gains in Lockdown?
Dr Turner and Dr Campbell also point out that any form of resistance exercise has clear benefits in maintaining muscle.
Further still, while the old adage “use it or lose it” tells us: ‘If you stop using your muscles, they’ll shrink’ a new review shows that nuclei gained during training persist even when muscle cells shrink due to disuse or start to break down.
These residual ‘myonuclei’ allow more and faster growth when muscles are retrained – suggesting that we can “bank” muscle growth potential in our teens to prevent frailty in old age.
Exercise Amazing for the Mind
Another new study also shows that low and high exercise intensities differentially influence brain function and can be used as therapeutic tools for psychological wellbeing.
Using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (Rs-fMRI), a noninvasive technique that allows for studies on brain connectivity, researchers discovered that low-intensity exercise triggers brain networks involved in cognition control and attention processing, while high-intensity exercise primarily activates networks involved in affective/emotion processing.
The results of the Rs-fMRI tests showed that low-intensity exercise led to increased functional connectivity in networks associated with cognitive processing and attention.
High-intensity exercise, on the other hand, led to increased functional connectivity in networks related to affective, emotional processes. High-intensity exercise also led to a decreased functional connectivity in networks associated with motor function.
Exercise Helps in Combating Depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, according to a new study from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
In a paper published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, the team reported that individuals who engaged in at least several hours of exercise each week were less likely to be diagnosed with a new episode of depression, even in the face of high genetic risk for the disorder.
What the researchers found was that people with higher genetic risk were more likely to be diagnosed with depression over the next two years.
Significantly, though, people who were more physically active at baseline were less likely to develop depression, even after accounting for genetic risk.
In addition, higher levels of physical activity were protective for people even with the highest genetic risk scores for depression.
The researchers found that both high-intensity forms of activity, such as aerobic exercise, dance and exercise machines, and lower-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, were linked to decreased odds of depression.
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Overall, individuals could see a 17% reduction in odds of a new episode of depression for each added four-hour block of activity per week.
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