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Exercise may prevent deadly COVID-19 outcomes

Dr. Yan said regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS
Posted at 8:00 AM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 08:02:02-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Exercise may help prevent deadly outcomes from COVID-19, according to researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

"Starting today, you should go exercise regularly. If you have not started it yet, you should start. If you have done it, keep doing it," explained Dr. Zhen Yan from UVA. "We should keep exercising."

Dr. Yan said regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. UVA reports ARDS is a major cause of death in patients with COVID-19.

“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 explained in a news release from UVA. "The flip side of the story is that approximately 80% 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.”

Dr. Yan explained that an antioxidant known as as “extracellular superoxide dismutase” (EcSOD) protects our tissues and helps prevent disease. He said our muscles naturally make EcSOD, and the body makes more with cardiovascular exercise. As a UVA news release explains, "even a single session of exercise increases production of the antioxidant, prompting Yan to urge people to find ways to exercise even while maintaining social distancing."

“We cannot live in isolation forever,” he explained in the UVA School of Medicine news release. “Regular exercise has far more health benefits than we know. The protection against this severe respiratory disease condition is just one of the many examples.”

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