Exercise during coronavirus pandemic: two sides of the same coin-intensity-specific effect of physical training on innate and acquired immune system of human

Document Type : Review


1 Department of Exercise Physiology, Faculty of Sports Sciences, University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Mazandaran, Iran

2 Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology, Clinical Biomechanics and Ergonomics Center, Aja University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Exercise physiology, Ahvaz Branch, Islamic Azad university, Ahvaz, Iran

4 Ph.D. in Sport Management, Islamic Azad University, Tehran North branch, Tehran, Iran


In the last few years, we have been living through an epic public health threat around the globe due to the spread of a novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A review of research on physical training and Upper Respiratory Trunk Infections (URTI) shows that regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (65-80% VO2max) increases antibody emersion, lymphocyte proliferation, gamma interferon, immunoglobulin M, G, natural killer cells production and Toll-like Receptors. There is growing evidence that a beneficial relationship between exercise and immunity in recreational individuals (J-shaped curve) and elite athletes (S-shaped curve). Regular exercise enhances rather than suppresses the immune response in individuals of all ages with several recommendations: First, it is reasonable to restrict heavy exercise at this stage, as the open window hypothesis may increase the susceptibility to infection. Second, healthy or asymptomatic individuals can exercise moderately with hygiene guidelines and benefit from improved immune function according to the J-shaped model. Third, people with mild upper respiratory tract symptoms upper neck (upper-neck symptoms: runny nose, sinus congestion, mild sore throat) can exercise lightly with precautions (T ≤ 60 min). Forth, the intensity and duration of exercise to boost the immune system should not exceed 60% VO2max in 1 hour. Finally, one suspected of COVID-19 symptoms (lower-neck symptoms: fever, cough, severe sore throat, myalgia, shortness of breath, general fatigue) should avoid exercise.