Intense workouts can stress immune system, heighten risk of respiratory illnesses, coronavirus: study

Extreme exercise routines like marathon running, Crossfit and working out to exhaustion could make some individuals more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, new research suggests.

Doctors at the American College of Sports Medicine say that some high-intensity forms of fitness can increase a person’s risk of developing the new coronavirus because of increased stress to the immune system that makes it harder to fight off viruses for a short period of time.

Research suggests that working out to exhaustion with high-intensity routines could heighen the risk for COVID-19 in some individuals. (iStock). 

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“This may not be the time to train for peak performance,” doctors note in the August edition of ACSM’s “Current Sports Medicine Reports,” explaining that this is highly important for those with a heightened risk for coronavirus, who should “refrain from exhaustive exercise,” unusually high exercise workloads” and “overtraining.”

After a high-intensity workout like long-distance running or heavy lifting, ACSM Dr. Thomas Best, a team physician at the University of Miami, tells Fox News the immune system becomes suppressed for a couple of weeks following the exhaustive spurt of exercise, which can increase the risk for viral illnesses like COVID-19.

“High intensity can have short-term detrimental effects — more specific is COVID-19, and the risks to the cardiovascular system,” Best said.

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But that doesn’t mean fitness fans have to quit their favorite workouts completely. Researchers instead promoted that healthy adults get between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity a week — ideally outside, and at a social distance.

“For people who aren’t as active, just going for a walk can enhance the immune system. If you’ve been active the whole time [during the pandemic], there’s no reason for you to change exercise regiment,” Best said.

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With gyms still closed or at capacity in many parts of the country, more Americans are breaking a sweat from home. And doctors have encouraged outdoor workouts after a number of outbreaks surged in some indoor gyms across the country. 

“Working out indoors is problematic, with sharing equipment and space in a crowded capacity. There are definitely precautionary measures that gym-owners need to put in place,” Dr. Steven Schnur, CEO of healthcare company Imhealthytoday, told FOX Business last month.