Many runners are expressing concern about their exercise routine amidst the rapidly spreading coronavirus. The virus has caused most spring marathons to cancel, countries to quarantine and the stock market to tank. But should runners also stop their routine to save their immune systems? The answer, according to several studies, is no.
If you’re an avid runner
Competitive athletes, according to a 2014 study out of the Journal of Sports Science Medicine, report very low numbers of sick days. A study that examined 11 endurance athletes (including distance runners), found that their immune systems weren’t taxed by their routine, but rather, improved.
If you’re an avid runner who’s accustomed to working out frequently, keep doing what you’re doing. Limiting your running routine isn’t proven to strengthen your immune system. As with all things, take sensible hygiene precautions like avoiding sick teammates, and—this should go without saying—snot rocketing mid-workout.
If you’re a new runner
If you’re new to running, avoid ramping up your training but also don’t cut it out entirely. Researchers have found that it “is a misconception to label any form of acute exercise as immunosuppressive, and, instead, exercise most likely improves immune competency across the lifespan.”
There are some studies that suggest a particularly strenuous workout can temporarily deplete the immune system, which is only to be avoided if it hasn’t been in your routine previously.
If you’re not a runner
If you’re not a runner, chances are low that you’re looking at starting up a new routine right now. However, if you can, consider an at-home workout routine to stay moving without overly taxing your system. The Journal of Sport and Health Science suggests that with more people working from and remaining at home, there’s a risk of sedentary lifestyles contributing to worsened health conditions.
If you have a stationary bike at home, ride it. If you have a treadmill at home, use it. Even if it’s walking the stairs or lifting some light weights, do your best to keep moving.