MOVE! 5.0

In my final Smart Moves piece, I’ll get straight to the point: START YOUR FITNESS PROGRAM. It’s never been so important. Aside from safeguarding our health, it’s also been found to build immunity – absolutely necessary in the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Exercise + vaccine links

In fact, scientists say that a fit body can increase a vaccine’s effectiveness and reduce its side effects – already proven with the flu and HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccines. Studies on the effects of exercise before and after a COVID-19 vaccine are still ongoing, but Associate Prof. Kate Edwards from the University of Sydney says similar results are expected.1 Isn’t that good news?

According to Edwards, ‘regular exercise … makes vaccine responses stronger and that likely then means you are more protected from the disease’. Her research says this does 3 things: 

  1. increases immune cells that guard the body, which destroy infected cells and make antibodies to kill viruses and bacteria;
  2. Releases myokine molecules, which alert the body’s defence system; and
  3. Strengthens the immune system over time and increases its response to infection.2

It markedly benefits older people. A 2019 study found that those who exercised regularly had an elevated antibody response to those who didn’t. Training on the day of a jab and afterwards are also believed to extend vaccine protection. Prof. Rob Newton from Perth’s Edith Cowan University says the exercise link with other vaccines (other than COVID-19 ones) is ‘so strong’, concluding:

‘The key is that exercise has no downsides. It gives benefits regardless … ’3

My formula

I have used dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells at my gym for nearly 4 years now – it has given amazing results even at my age (72). I’ve twice stopped myself from falling, and have the power to lift fairly heavy items without hurting my back. I walk even faster than I did 10 years ago. And combined with stretching, I no longer suffer bouts of sciatica which once crippled me for days. 

I recently discovered that balancing on each leg 30 seconds at a time with arms outstretched improved my balance and gave me sharper focus. Like strength, poor balance is a casualty of inactivity and age. As a bonus, the left and right sides of my brain are also said to benefit. Here’s my demo. It’s tough at first, but please persevere – you’ll be thrilled when you can maintain this pose for 30 seconds without toppling. 

A really good book on the power of strength training is The New Rules of Lifting for Life by American strength-coaches Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove. It’s an intelligent guide on using weights and your own body mass to build strength and power. It also devotes a chapter on single-leg strength exercises to improve balance. A review of the book cited 2 key phrases: ‘Decline is inevitable’, and ‘How fast you decline is up to you’.4 It is. 

GET EXERCISING NOW. Walk, jog, lift weights or even dance – if that takes your fancy. Don’t just endure it, enjoy it! And unless you have a reason not to, no excuses for not starting. But get your doctor’s all-clear first

If you have niggling back or neck pains or have had previous injuries, I do recommend you look at https://physiocise.com.au/ – where classes are run entirely by physiotherapists. A great resource which I use. 

So my new readers and Pearlers, what more can I say to get you to commit to a regular regime at the gym or fitness centre? You know you should. SO DO IT!

1Aubrey, S. (April 18, 2021). ‘Why exercising before getting a vaccine is a good idea’. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/why-doing-exercise-before-you-have-your-vaccine-is-a-good-idea-20210415-p57jet.html

2  Aubrey, SMH.

 3 Aubrey, SMH.

Goodyer, P. (December 4, 2012). ‘Getting older? Get stronger’. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/getting-older-get–stronger-20121203-2aqq7.html