Exercise improves your health

In the last printed issue of Channel I wrote about the chaos of Covid in a general international sense. Prior to August, most of us had our lives inconvenienced or deeply disrupted by the pandemic’s progress. But since August there has been a direct threat to our health. Delta paid a visit to the North Shore.

Thousands of us had the stress of a close contact notification and the anxious wait for results. In just two months the landscape has permanently changed.

The most important thing we can all do to protect our health and the health of others is to get vaccinated. The Ministry of Health reports the vaccine is 95% effective. This means that for 95% of people being double-jabbed offers significant protection against the three poor outcomes of getting infected, getting seriously ill and passing infection on to others.

No lifestyle intervention is as effective as being fully vaccinated. Even all the possible lifestyle interventions combined could not come close to the power of that protection. However, once you are fully vaccinated there are steps you can take to further improve your personal odds.

Exercise is one of the most powerful ways to improve your health. It’s often said that if exercise was a pill it would be considered a wonder drug. It has positive effects on a variety of health dimensions – cardiovascular health, musculoskeletal health, cancer, diabetes, mental health and many more. Being fit also increases your immunological fitness.

In a general sense, exercise directly supports immunity by increasing blood flow and mobilising white blood cells, one of the main defences against harmful microbes. Covid is an unusual virus and general fitness doesn’t appear to predict likelihood of infection. However, as it’s a respiratory virus, progress is impeded by the cardio-respiratory fitness of the host. An efficient cardio-respiratory system can improve your odds of keeping illness mild and short. 

In addition to this, regular exercise is an important contributor to maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity significantly increases the risk of hospitalisation, ICU admission and death.

Interestingly, cardio-respiratory fitness significantly decreases the risk of these outcomes, to an even greater degree. So reducing body fat is important, but building fitness is even more important. In addition to this, good physical fitness reduces the risk that other health conditions may worsen a Covid illness.

You can build your cardio-respiratory fitness with any exercise that raises your heart rate. Walking is great if it’s safe for you to do so. If it’s not, this could be a great opportunity to try out online exercise. I’ve dusted off my Les Mills On Demand membership and through lockdown I’ve enjoyed live streaming of Takapuna Les Mills classes.

In many ways our destiny is out of our control, but there are positive steps we can all take to improve our fitness. At the very least, good health can help us as we strive to be considerate bubble buddies and productive people at this challenging time of transition.

By: , Claire Bellingham of Les Mills Takapuna.

Issue 124 October 2021