Lack of exercise could be a killer amid coronavirus crisis, says top Doctor

Dr William Bird, who advises the Government on public health, has calculated up to 7,100 could die this year due to the long-term effects of deconditioning on the body. This can occur if those who self-isolate stop being active for three months. Dr Bird said: “We must encourage people to get outdoors where possible and exercise by walking.

A walk of just 10 minutes reduces stress, improves mental health and boosts the immune system.

“And, if correct safety precautions and social distancing are observed, walking outdoors is safe even for those who are self-isolating.”

Under new Government guidance issued by Public Health England, people over 70 and people with pre-existing conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and lung diseases, should avoid going out “even to buy food or other essentials other than exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others”.

But Dr Bird said: “The guidance to at risk groups to not go out or socialise makes it unclear and people are panicked.


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“Hidden within its advice is that people can go out and exercise as long as they keep a safe distance from other people.

“I am very worried that people will see this opportunity as a time to sit and watch television but this is an opportunity to go for short walks outdoors, explore the local area and find some home exercises.

“It is vital that those who are self-isolating or housebound continue to be active and ensure they walk for a minimum of 10 minutes a day, twice a day, while remaining isolated from others. Alternatively, try doing some activities in the home. Perhaps you could climb the stairs if you have some, or you could try yoga.

“Not only will it reduce the death rate from many diseases but also protect against coronavirus.”


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The figures were worked out based on data about death rates following inactivity for three months in a normal population of older people. A lack of physical activity leads to loss of muscle, which in turn leads to increased risk of potentially fatal falls and fractures.

In addition, a lack of movement creates inflammation in the body which increases rates of diabetes, heart disease, dementia, depression and arthritis.

Exercise can boost the body’s “natural killer cells” that scout out and fight infections like Covid-19.

Dr Bird added: “They are the border guards which grab viruses as soon as they enter the body, but six hours after exercising the effects of these fade so it is important to do something at least twice a day.”

People with symptoms of coronavirus should not go out. However, under government advice, those living with people who have Covid-19 should go out, but keep their distance, for 14 days.

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