Exercise is key in fight against Covid-19, says French doctor

Dr William Berrebi, host of the French podcast 'Merci Docteur!', argues that exercise has been ignored as a way to overcome coronavirus

22 April 2021

'It is possible that inactivity is playing a role in Covid-19 infections in France' Pic:

By Dr William Berrebi

When we do regular physical exercise, it helps us fight against everything that is linked to obesity and diabetes.

If you are not obese, you will globally have a stronger immune system. We know that patients who are obese will have different intestinal microbiota to people who are not and that obesity can lead to certain pathologies, notably those that are infectious.

This has been confirmed by Covid-19. There is a higher rate of mortality from Covid- 19 in patients who are obese.

These microbiota play a role in managing elements of our health. When they are unbalanced, it can lead to a certain number of pathologies – not only digestive, but also things like diabetes, obesity or autism.

When you do physical exercise, it creates substances that are anti-cancerous and can boost the immune system.

Someone who is not obese and does regular physical activity is going to have a reduced risk of an infection.

Sport is good for combating all infections, Covid included.

'The fact that people in France are finding it difficult to get out and do sport in the evening or at the weekend, due to restrictions, is counter-productive in terms of health'

It creates more anxiety, more depression, and also people cannot create these substances that are good for the immune system via the microbiota.

It is possible that inactivity is playing a role in Covid-19 infections in France. It would be comically simplistic to reduce the pandemic to just this but, particularly during this period, it would be a bonus if everyone could do more physical exercise.

I recommend that everyone go outside whenever possible.

Regular exercise means two hours and 30 minutes per week – it could be cycling, swimming, running, etc.

If you cannot manage this, I recommend 30 minutes of fast walking every day.

Doctors also need to play their part. It is necessary that doctors are better trained in the benefits of physical activity and that there is a continuation in training.

We know there is a different effect on patients when they are told to do physical activity, compared to when they are given a prescription.

'It has been observed that the patient is twice as likely to follow the recommendation to do exercise when they are given a written prescription'

Today, it is important to give patients, who are perhaps in a difficult situation mentally due to Covid-19 or other reasons, this written prescription.

We also need to offer an incentive to people to sign up to gyms or sports clubs, such as a discount on membership.

Sport must become an arm in the battle against Covid-19, against infections, against mental health issues – and not just something that is done for pleasure.

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