new study on how to reduce your risk for viral infections and covid 19 62bc4b936160d

New Study on How to Reduce your Risk for viral infections and Covid-19



People have asked me about Covid-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which has made headlines with countries like Italy and the use of ventilators. Obviously, people fear getting the virus and developing ARDS;  which is a potential worse case scenerio that occurs in 3% to 17% of people infected with COVID-19. Of those hospitalized with Covid-19 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates up to 2 of every 5 people will develop ARDS and if they were admitted to the intensive care unit 4 out of every 5 people develop ARDS. About 45%, or just short of half the people with severe ARDS will die. The fear is ending up on a ventilator or not being able to have access to one.  

Fortunately, we still believe 80% of people that get Covid-19 will have a mild disease course and not need any respiratory support. We know that exercise can support the immune system and now  there is one recent research study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine that strongly suggests that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of ARDS.

The research shows that during exercise our muscles produce a very powerful antioxidant called “extracellular superoxide dismutase” or EcSOD.  This antioxidant functions to bind up and neutralize harmful free radicals that otherwise would damage our tissues which could cause disease. EcSOD circulates through all our vital organs but its production and protective effects are enhanced by cardiovascular exercise.

It has been demonstrated that lower levels of EcSOD have been found in acute lung disease, ischemic heart disease, and kidney failure.   Incidently, many ICU patients with COVID-19 have all three of these problems. Is also been found to be lower in chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.  In research with mice, blocking EcSOD worsens heart problems while increasing it brings improvement.

So far studies have shown that even a single work out increases the production of EcSOD. Therefore, getting even limited exercise may help and I’ve been urging people even more to exercise for 30 minutes a day either by brisk walking, jogging, running, biking, jump rope, or anything to get the larger muscles moving and accelerating your heart rate.

We’ve known for years that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces infectious diseases such has viral and bacterial infections and also non infectious diseases such as cancer. These benefits occur because the immune system is enhanced in its protective function against foreign invaders and can better target mutated harmful cells with exercise on a regular basis.

In the past, there were concerns about more intense exercise producing excessive damage and release of substances like tumor necrosis factor alpha but new research is providing more answers. Moderate exercise is all that is really needed to enhance the immune system.  Also, we know that exercise causes T-cells and macrophages, the active immune cells of the body to migrate to the peripheral tissues like the mucous lining of the lung and nasal passages, the intestines, and the skin.  They provide more vigilance against foreign pathogens and weed out any cells that might have been damaged by free radicals. Frequent exercise may also limit or delay immunological aging. The aging immune system relies more on memory T cells for protection based on past threats rather than antigen naiive T cells which make the immune system more adaptive to new threats. Covid -19  targets immune cells and turns them off so building up a  strong immune system to have reserves may be helpful. 

So in conclusion, I urge you to get some cardiovascular exercise as it will enhance your immune system and may prevent you from getting more serious respiratory complications with any viral infection.  I recommend getting outside to walk, jog, run, bike, or anything to get the larger muscles of your body moving and acclerating your heart rate for 30 minutes a day.   Ensuring adequate nutrients to support your mitochondria, the powerhouse of your cells will provide you the energy to exercise and make more EcSOD. 

For more information on nutrients for the mitochondria, sleep, supplements, foods, and stress reduction to help boost the immune system please see the blogs on

If you have comments, questions, or want to learn how functional medicine can help with improving your immune function call our office or email Stay healthy and take care.


Jeffrey Mark, M.D.

Helping clients with compassionate and comprehensive medical care for over 25 years with 4 board certifications in functional medicine, gastroenterology, internal medicine, and anti-aging/ regenerative medicine . IFMCP, ABIM Gastroenterology, NPAS Internal Medicine, ABAARM.

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