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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 1034-1038

Physical activity and COVID-19: Stay physically active during self-quarantine

Department of Sport Studies, University Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia

Date of Submission19-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance05-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication10-Feb-2023

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Qais Gasibat
Department of Sport Studies, University Putra Malaysia, 43000 Serdang, Selangor
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdmimsu.jdmimsu_20_21

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How to cite this article:
Gasibat Q, Tengku Kamalden TF. Physical activity and COVID-19: Stay physically active during self-quarantine. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2022;17:1034-8

How to cite this URL:
Gasibat Q, Tengku Kamalden TF. Physical activity and COVID-19: Stay physically active during self-quarantine. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 1];17:1034-8. Available from: http://www.journaldmims.com/text.asp?2022/17/4/1034/369484

  Abstract Top

Globally, the behavior of physical activities is being primarily impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Many people have been forced to stay home in self-isolation for a long period due to this global pandemic. It has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that 60 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 6–17-year-olds, and 75 min/week of vigorous or 150 min/week of moderate physical activity for adults and the elderly, including 3 and 2 days/week, respectively, should be performed with strengthening muscle and bone exercises. The detrimental mental and physical side effects of the COVID-19, protective lifestyle regulations can be counteracted by practical recommendations for staying active at home, with aerobic exercise training on a bike or a rowing ergometer, dance or active video gaming as well as bodyweight training.

In December 2019, Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province in China reported an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).[1],[2] It has been argued that the zoonotic origin of COVID-19 was attributed to the seafood market of Wuhan. Currently, more than 146 countries have reported the similar cases of the virus. However, at the time, China was the most affected, with nearly 81,048 cases followed by Italy and Iran with 21,157 and 12,729, respectively. While the virus was new and countries had little to no knowledge of how to control the disease, measures to increase community awareness were found crucial for minimizing its spread to other territories. The virus could be contained by implementing necessary infection control measures and sharing public health information with the people.[3],[4]

COVID-19 is an enveloped RNA coronavirus that is easily transmitted through respiratory spread from one individual to another. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the respiratory droplets so produced may fall onto another person who will be at risk of contracting the disease. Furthermore, the respiratory droplets can fall on a surface where another healthy individual may come into contact with the contaminated area.[5],[6] Globally, the rapid spread of the disease can be limited through preventive strategies that aim to minimize close contact between infected persons with healthy people.[7]

Scientists believe that the outbreak can be controlled by improving the immune system and functioning of an individual. The first immunology research carried out in the 1900s led to an increase in scientific interest, and in the years between the 1980s and 1990s, studies evaluating the relationship between human lifestyle and immune function became common. Scientists wanted to investigate how physical activities and exercise influence the immune system. Amid this pandemic, people should be advised to maintain exercise regimes that will boost the competency of their immune system.[8] Studies show that individuals involved in moderate physical activities experience a reduction of infection in the upper respiratory tract by 20%–30%.[9] However, it has been found that persons participating in prolonged high-intensity exercises may possibly weaken their immune system.[10],[11]

Although physical activities are advisable to boost the immune system, the primary question among many people is whether or not exercise would be helpful during the current pandemic. The field of medicine and sports is more concerned about the role of physical activity in minimizing the impact of the coronavirus. China seems to have a different approach that does not favor physical activities or exercise. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the country shut down all operations in its cities by ensuring that public places and facilities were not open, including parks. The closure of these areas minimized the opportunities for people to indulge in exercise.[12]

The decision by China was influenced by the desire to contain the virus and prevent its spread to other areas. The public was continually receiving guidance regarding how they could manage their daily activities as well as physical exercise. Notably, while the approach to keep people at home helped to slow down the spread of the deadly virus, it could also result in unintended adverse impacts. Arguably, the efforts by China to minimize interaction and contact between people would decrease the level of physical activities performed by individuals daily. A prolonged stay at home would be likely to increase the risk of a deteriorating health condition among healthy people and a worsening of chronic diseases as a result of inactive behavior such as reduced regular exercise and physical activity as people spend more time seated, watching television, using technological devices, and playing video games.[12] Health specialists emphasized the importance of engaging in continuous physical activity to boost immunity, maintain the functioning of the immune system, and the health status of people.

The pandemic should not deter people from engaging in daily physical activity. According to Dr. Jeffrey Woods, it is advisable for individuals to continue exercising, especially during this time of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, as people plan to engage in exercise activity, they must observe certain precautions to avoid being infected from coming into contact with exercise partners who are already infected. Some of the recommended measures include wearing a mask to prevent exposure to respiratory droplets from an infected person. People are advised to disinfect practice areas and equipment before and after their routine. The fitness facilities should be cleaned often to keep everyone safe from the virus. Once an individual is through with the exercise, they should cleanse their hands using running water and soap for nearly 20 s. Afterward, the individual should apply sanitizer on the hands that contain at least 60% of alcohol. While the Centers for Disease Control of the United States claim that a sanitizer is not usually effective against all germs, people should keep sanitizing to minimize the risk of infection from COVID-19. Notably, persons who are unable to disinfect their arms often should avoid touching their face or neck with their hands before cleansing.[13]

On the other hand, for people unable to visit a gymnasium or follow the protocols of disinfecting surfaces, they are advised to exercise in the comfort of their own homes. People can avoid the risks associated with the airborne coronavirus by staying at home and continuing with a scheduled exercise routine. However, they are advised to implement safe and easy-to-implement physical activities to help them maintain fitness levels and boost immunity. Some of the exercises that individuals will find easy to perform include stretching, push-ups, squats, sit-ups, walking in the house, and lifting items in the house, such as chairs or groceries. In addition, traditional activities such as yoga[14] and Qigong[15] would be helpful for people since they require little space, and no equipment is needed. With the technological devices available for most people, they can access exercise videos from the Internet, television, and mobile devices[16] to help them follow a routine to maintain their immune and physical function as well as sustain a healthy condition during this crucial time. Equally, aerobics would also be useful for those exercising at home.[17] As many people continue to exercise at home, they must ensure they have proper ventilation and use personal equipment and make an effort to frequently disinfect all contact surfaces.

Although physical activity is deemed a crucial practice to prevent exposure to health risks, there are some cases where individuals are advised against indulging in some exercises. An infection identified in the upper respiratory tract is one of the acute medical conditions that can result in an individual being advised to either continue or discontinue the physical exercise. With the help of the neck check rule, patients are advised on the necessary steps to follow. For instance, in the case of symptoms such as sore throat, coughing, and sneezing, a patient will be advised to jog for nearly 10 min, after which a medical practitioner will examine the state of the individual. If the symptoms worsen after the jog, then the individual is prohibited from engaging in any physical exercise. On the contrary, if there is no change identified after the jog, then the patient is allowed to continue with moderate activities that are below 80% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2) max. Nevertheless, if the initial signs were identified as fever, myalgia, or gastrointestinal, at this point, the patient would be advised against any further physical activity including undergoing the 10-min jog until they recover.[18]

Physical activities have been proven beneficial in promoting the health condition of individuals[19] and for protecting patients with chronic illness[20] from deterioration. Dr. Steven Blair who was the president of the Cooper Institute incorporated a quote from Dr. Ken Powell who was a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist stating that engaging in some exercise is better than none and if possible more practice would be healthier than minimal activities.[21] Ideally, individuals should indulge in approximately 20–30 min of moderate or vigorous daily exercise, respectively.[19] While people are advised to combine all intensities of physical activities, for the children and elderly populations, they are required to seek medical advice regarding activities that would not expose them to danger. Furthermore, individuals susceptible to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular illnesses should not proceed to indulge in any form of physical exercise without permission from a medical practitioner.[19]

Researchers have identified physical activity as a crucial strategy to promote health. However, the rule appears to apply only for healthy persons since vulnerable populations are required to seek medical advice before indulging in physical exercise. Although exercise is not generalizable to the entire community, all persons are advised to be more cautious about activities that can help boost their immunity. COVID-19 is a disease that appears to harm individuals whose immune system is weak, and physical activities are among one of the best ways to boost immunity. Therefore, people need to include regular exercise in their daily routine to maintain a healthy condition as well as to avoid the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The WHO also recommends additional measures that people can implement to minimize the risk of catching the deadly virus, including social distancing, regular cleaning of hands, and sanitizing.[22]

As society struggles to find the ways of overcoming the impact of the pandemic, the WHO has prepared a list of exercises that are useful in ensuring that while at home, individuals remain physically active [Table 1]. The WHO recommends 60 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 6–17-year-olds, and 75 min/week of vigorous or 150 min/week of moderate physical activity for adults and the elderly, including 3 and 2 days/week, respectively, with muscle and bone strengthening.[23]
Table 1: Home activities

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The proposed exercises can be carried out at home without using fitness equipment or going to the gym, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced most people to self-quarantine.

  Conclusion Top

Activities based on the home provide a chance to stay healthy and fit for people by practicing normal movements during the homestay period. There are various countries that have imposed lockdowns, forcing people to stay at home, and to go out for emergency purposes only. Those who are used to regular outdoor physical activity will go through some mental and physical health issues due to this decision. Being conscious about the necessity of our mental health and immune system, these aspects need to be taken care of with importance to fight sickness. Anxiety, stress, and mental distress may occur due to staying home. The best path of overcoming these problems is to replace outdoor exercises with home-based activities.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Zhu N, Zhang D, Wang W, Li X, Yang B, Song J, et al. A novel coronavirus from patients with pneumonia in China, 2019. N Engl J Med 2020;382:727-33.  Back to cited text no. 1
Tan W, Zhao X, Ma X, Wang W, Niu P, Xu W, et al. A novel coronavirus genome identified in a cluster of pneumonia cases – Wuhan, China 2019-2020. China CDC Wkly 2020;2:61-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
Stratton SJ. COVID-19: Not a simple public health emergency. Prehosp Disaster Med 2020;35:119.  Back to cited text no. 3
Meng L, Hua F, Bian Z. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Emerging and future challenges for dental and oral medicine. J Dent Res 2020;99:481-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
Pradhan P, Pandey AK, Mishra A, Gupta P, Tripathi PK, Menon MB, et al. Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag. bioRxiv 2020;13:751-2.  Back to cited text no. 5
Guan WJ, Ni ZY, Hu Y, Liang WH, Ou CQ, He JX, et al. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med 2020;382:1708-20.  Back to cited text no. 6
Xiong H, Yan H. Simulating the infected population and spread trend of 2019-nCov under different policy by EIR model. MedRxiv 2020;02:20021519.  Back to cited text no. 7
Shephard RJ. Development of the discipline of exercise immunology. Exerc Immunol Rev 2010;16:194-222.  Back to cited text no. 8
Harris MD. Infectious disease in athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep 2011;10:84-9.  Back to cited text no. 9
Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA. Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2009;37:157-64.  Back to cited text no. 10
Ahmadinejad Z, Alijani N, Mansori S, Ziaee V. Common sports-related infections: A review on clinical pictures, management and time to return to sports. Asian J Sports Med 2014;5:1-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behavior: Emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc 2010;85:1138-41.  Back to cited text no. 12
Zhu W. Should, and how can, exercise be done during a coronavirus outbreak? An interview with Dr. Jeffrey A. Woods. J Sport Health Sci 2020;9:105.  Back to cited text no. 13
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Yoga: What You Need to Know; 08 November, 2018. NCCIH Website. Available from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 27].  Back to cited text no. 14
Guo Y, Qiu P, Liu T, Quan TJ. An overview of its history, health benefits, and cultural value. J Sport Health Sci 2014;3:3-8.  Back to cited text no. 15
Tate DF, Lyons EJ, Valle CG. High-tech tools for exercise motivation: Use and role of technologies such as the internet, mobile applications, social media, and video games. Diabetes Spectr 2015;28:45-54.  Back to cited text no. 16
Chen P, Mao L, Nassis GP, Harmer P, Ainsworth BE, Li F. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): The need to maintain regular physical activity while taking precautions J Sport Health Sci 2020;9:103-4.  Back to cited text no. 17
Eichner ER. Infection, immunity, and exercise. Phys Sportsmed 1993;21:125-35.  Back to cited text no. 18
US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; 2018;11:e005263.  Back to cited text no. 19
Luan X, Tian X, Zhang H, Huang R, Li N, Chen P, et al. Exercise as a prescription for patients with various diseases. J Sport Health Sci 2019;8:422-41.  Back to cited text no. 20
Zhu W. If you are physically fit, you will live a longer and healthier life: An interview with Dr. Steven N. Blair. J Sport Health Sci 2019;8:524-6.  Back to cited text no. 21
World Health Organization. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Technical Guidance. Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-technical-guidance/stay-physically-active-during-self-quarantine. [Last accessed on 2021 Jul 01].  Back to cited text no. 22
WHO. Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health.Promoting Sport for All Benefits and Strategies for the 21st Century 93: WHO; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 23


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