Exercise is Medicine

Exercise is Medicine

Kara building strength, endurance, health, and immunity while running in nature

In the past week I have seen 4 significant research articles come up pointing to the importance of exercise and healthy living to improving immunity and minimizing the risk factors associated with COVID-19, and most likely most acute or chronic diseases. The first was a study from NYU that “found obesity as the single biggest factor in New York COVID critical cases.” The second a paper by two of my favorite exercise science and and health researchers, Philip Maffetone and Paul Larsen, titled the “headlong collision of two global pandemics – COVID 19 and Overfat – could be the perfect storm for a worldwide health catastrophe.”

The other two articles were on the positive effects of exercise. The first was titled “Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression.” In summary it stated that “we emphasize that it is a misconception to label any form of acute exercise as immunosuppressive, and, instead, exercise most likely improves immune competency across the lifespan.” The most recent article was titled “COVID-19: Exercise May Protect Against Deadly Complication”. “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. The flip side of the story is that approximately 80% of confirmed COVID-19 cases 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.” The authors are urging people to exercise based on these findings, which also suggest a potential treatment approach because “a single session of exercise increases the production of a critical antioxidant, called EcSOD, helping to reduce the effects of COVID-19 infection.”

With these thoughts in mind, I sent out a request to Advantage Multisport athletes to offer up the ways they have integrated exercise into their lives and have recently changed their approach through these challenging times. My hope is that through seeing that exercise (training, racing, whatever we want to call it) can be and should be an integral part of everyone’s everyday life, and how it can be incorporated in and around family, work, etc. The incoming pictures and thoughts were more than I could hope for, and I plan to share these with you a couple days a week for inspiration. As a coach, I like for athletes to choose a goal to focus their training. That goal can be a race, an event, any physical challenge, that will offer motivation and direction for the work to come. Ultimately however, it is really about creating a consistent healthy lifestyle that enhances our lives, physically, mentally, even spiritually. I will offer up these stories in the order they came to me, as each has so much to give in terms of how each and every person, with so many different life situations (families, business owners, couples) has chosen to include daily movement into their lives.

The first post comes from Travis and Kara Millhollin, two of the nicest people I have met in my life. They are busy consultants, run a nonprofit foundation, and recently Kara has been placed in charge of starting a new business. I have worked with Travis for several years now with mainly an Ironman training focus, but also across all distances of triathlons and runs. Travis has many great results the last several years, in particular in 2018 where he set 4 PRs at 70.3 and marathon races, and last year had an outstanding race at IMAZ. I have had the honor of working with Kara the past 1.5 years in which she was coming back from many years of injuries associated with running and wanted to take a stab at triathlon. In her first year she had an outstanding season with podium age group finishes, and building the durability that will carry her far as an athlete towards future goals. While many early season races have been cancelled, Travis and Kara have remained consistent with their structured training to build toward later season goals. They have also chosen to “return to nature” with several runs per month, running along the beautiful trails in the northwest forests and coastlines. This approach is perfect for building on the strength-endurance aspect of fitness for their future races, while also offering a mental break from pure race-specific running.

Exercise is being touted as an excellent means to help fight disease and stay healthy. Similar to the benefits of exercise, allowing time in nature and sunshine has also been shown time and again to enhance our health and well-being. Thank you, Travis and Kara, for sharing how you are incorporating exercise and nature into your lives during this time.

Taking in the coastal sunshine mid run.

If anyone would like to read the articles, please contact me and I can forward them on.

About Author : Daryl Smith