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UVA study: Exercise may protect against deadly COVID-19 complications

May prevent or reduce severity of acute respiratory distress syndrome
UVA Health.jpg
Posted at 2:09 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 09:31:06-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Researchers at the University of Virginia say regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a major cause of death in patients with the COVID-19 virus.

A review by Zhen Yan, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, showed that medical research findings “strongly support” the possibility that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of ARDS, which affects between 3% and 17% of all patients with COVID-19.

Researchers say 80-percent of COVID-19 patients show mild symptoms, with no need for respiratory support. They say this is likely due to regular aerobic activity, like walking or working out at home.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20% to 42% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 will develop ARDS.

“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,” Yan said. “The flip side of the story is that approximately 80% of confirmed COVID-19 patients 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.”

For more information or to read the full study, click here.

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COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.