While my practice is sports medicine, assessing risk and understanding multiple variables, competing interests, and population risk versus individual risk are things I consider everyday. It has been two years since my last blog post and it is a good time to get back into writing about sports medicine. Outdoor activities, free play, & physical fitness remain deficient in this country. Despite the myriad gyms, online resources, and appearance of famed athletes, actors, and news anchors, 40% of our population is overweight or obese. This risk factor is the biggest single risk factor facing those infected in the US. Smokers in China had an increased rate of serious illness and death. Obesity has been equated to smoking in relation to overall health risks.
Although social distancing is an effective strategy, it is also just about Springtime & the sun is shining. Instead of complaining about the empty shelves due to the toilet paper hoarders, let’s all make a conscious effort to get some light exercise outdoors. Find ways to get outside and optimize your health. A walk, a bike ride, maybe play a game with your kids outside – I would recommend spike ball. Our bodies are designed for this type of stress. What can you do to combat this pandemic? Getting your body in shape with healthy diet, some exercise, and social activity with your immediate family might be just what the doctor ordered.
For those of you that exercise regularly now is not the time to max out. While light exercise promotes your protective systems, heavier levels of exertion can actually depress your immune function. Carbohydrates are also necessary for proper functioning. Overly restricting carbohydrates can also impair the immune system. A good source of healthy carbohydrates is fruit. With the issues surrounding our markets, fresh fruit may not be available everywhere, so stocking up on dried fruit/frozen fruit may be a good option during this outbreak of the novel Coronavirus. Stay hydrated. A healthy system can flush out antigens from the mucosa that are exposed.
Meditation can be an amazing way to balance the system and support immune function. My favorite mediations are those that encourage the autonomic nervous system. Here is a link for Wim Hof’s breathing exercise instruction. Another method I recommend is to count your heartbeat in and out in a 1:2 ratio. In other words 4 beats in and 8 beats out. In through the nose and out through slightly pursed lips as if blowing gently. The exact number of beats doesn’t matter much, just play with the rate and remain in a ratio of 1 second or heart beat in for every 2 seconds or heart beats out.
Most importantly, do not panic. We have strong infrastructure in this country. When people panic and overstock on the non-essentials it stresses our systems. Keep enough food in your house for 2 weeks, but do not overdo it. While it may seem like the apocalypse is coming when you shop at the local stores (especially in the toilet paper aisles) this will be a mild respiratory infection for most people. It is the “flattening of the curve” phenomenon that officials are hoping to achieve in limiting contact and maintaining social distance during this early phase of infection. Coronaviruses have been the cause of your seasonal colds and coughs before. The novel coronavirus-19 is different in that we have not previously primed our immune systems for this virus’ presenting proteins. This means that people are getting sicker, faster, and we will need the full armamentarium of our hospitals and doctor’s offices to care for those that are most impacted. If we can slow this virus down, we will win. Be smart. Do not fall victim to hype. Find trusted resources and doctors to help guide your decisions.
Be safe. Be healthy. Remain active.