In a preventive measure against the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19), researchers have revealed that regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a major cause of death in patients with the COVID-19 virus.
The review by the researcher Zhen Yan from the University of Virginia in the US, showed that medical research findings "strongly support" the possibility that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of ARDS, which affects between three per cent and 17 per cent of all patients with COVID-19.
Based on available information, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20 per cent to 42 per cent of patients hospitalised for COVID-19 will develop ARDS.
The range for patients admitted to intensive care is estimated at 67 per cent to 85 per cent, according to the review, published in the journal Redox Biology.
Research conducted prior to the pandemic suggested that approximately 45 per cent of patients who develop severe ARDS will die.
"Our findings of an endogenous antioxidant enzyme provide important clues and have intrigued us to develop a novel therapeutic for ARDS caused by COVID-19," Yan said.
For the findings, the researcher compiled an in-depth review of existing medical research, including his own, looking at an antioxidant known as "extracellular superoxide dismutase" (EcSOD).
This potent antioxidant hunts down harmful free radicals, protecting our tissues and helping to prevent disease. Our muscles naturally make EcSOD, secreting it into the circulation to allow binding to other vital organs, but its production is enhanced by cardiovascular exercise.
A decrease in the antioxidant is seen in several diseases, including acute lung disease, ischemic heart disease and kidney failure, Yan's review showed.
Lab research in mice suggests that blocking its production worsens heart problems while increasing it has a beneficial effect.
A decrease in EcSOD is also associated with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, the study said.
The research suggested that even a single session of exercise increases the production of the antioxidant, prompting Yan to urge people to find ways to exercise even while maintaining social distancing.
"We cannot live in isolation forever, regular exercise has far more health benefits than we know. The protection against this severe respiratory disease condition is just one of the many examples," he said.
The review also suggests EcSOD as a potential treatment for ARDS and many other health conditions.