ARDS is disease marked by lung tissue injury, inflammation, and respiratory failure. It affects between 3 and 17 percent of people with COVID-19. Of people hospitalized with COVID-19, 20 to 42 percent will develop ARDS, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number skyrockets to 67 to 85 percent among those admitted to intensive care. Research conducted prior to the pandemic suggested that approximately 45 percent of patients who develop severe ARDS will die, according to the press release.
Exercise may help prevent ARDS by triggering the production of a powerful antioxidant called extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD). Our muscles naturally produce EcSOD and pump it into circulation. From there it binds to vital organs like the lungs where it acts like a shield protecting tissues from free radical damage and preventing disease.
The review shows there is a decrease in EcSOD in diseases like lung disease, ischemic heart disease, and kidney failure.
Endurance exercise ramps up the production of EcSOD, which in turn may provide protection against this COVID-19 related severe respiratory disease, says lead researcher Zhen Yan, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, who promotes regular exercise as medicine.
Regular exercise also boosts immunity and generally leads to lower blood pressure and helps prevent hypertension, which is one of the underlying risk factors that appear to increase the susceptibility to the coronavirus among older adults and raises the risk of developing more severe symptoms for those who contract the virus.
“Exercise-induced EcSOD in protection against ARDS is just one example of many health benefits of regular exercise,” Yan told Bicycling. “The positive impact of regular exercise on hypertension [also] removes one of the risk factors for the negative consequence of COVID-19.”
Whether you’re Zwifting indoors or riding solo outside, keep your pedals turning for added protection. There’s a growing body of evidence that it can help with your mental and physical health as we all do what we can to protect ourselves and others during this global pandemic.
“I generally ride about 16 miles per day if weather permits,” Yan told Bicycling, and he urges others to prioritize exercise along with physical distancing as part of their defense against the coronavirus pandemic.
“All you hear now is either social distancing or ventilator, as if all we can do is either avoiding exposure or relying on a ventilator to survive if we get infected,” Yan said in the press release. “The flip side of the story is that approximately 80 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients have mild symptoms with no need of respiratory support. The question is why. Our findings about an endogenous antioxidant enzyme provide important clues and have intrigued us to develop a novel therapeutic for ARDS caused by COVID-19.”
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Dr. MJ Wegmann,