Running through the Coronavirus.

The Paris marathon is postponed, Tokyo marathon was limited to elite runners and wheelchair athletes,  and the mass participation in  other spring marathons is in jeopardy. As of March 2nd the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) have stated that the famous Boston Marathon will proceed as planned on 20th April 2020.  The situation unfolding with coronavirus is above all a human tragedy.coronavirus But what do runners need to know about coronavirus? It’s important to remember that in the age of information its so easy to be distracted, swayed and influenced by articles, statements and opinions that lack evidence, rigour and analysis. The 2019-nCoV strain of coronavirus that began to spread in China  in December 2019 is thought to have originated in snakes or bats (Ji et al., 2020). It has now reached most corners of the globe with symptoms similar to the common cold or flu. But it’s not the first viral outbreak of this decade, in 2014 in west Africa alone 11,000 died after falling victim to Ebola.

In the context of this coronavirus outbreak does running help or hinder the body’s ability to fight off infections? Many regular runners will have heard from well-meaning friends, spouses, parents and work colleagues that strenuous running dampens the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to pathogens and illness. It has long been commonly believed that endurance exercise like marathon running may suppress the immune system, a myth that possible began three decades ago in the 1980s when studies began to report an  increased incidence of infection symptoms in athletes in the days or weeks after an event. But these studies relied on self-diagnosed symptoms from runners, and these sniffles weren’t confirmed to be viral infections in a laboratory setting. Follow up research since has confirmed that the immune systems of  runners and other endurance athletes rather than being over burdened by exercise,  may in fact be bolstered. The evidence now suggests that a physically active lifestyle diminishes the risk of contracting a range of communicable diseases including viral and bacterial infections (Campbell and Turner, 2018). So it is safe to run or  complete strenuous exercise and it won’t increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus. But other factors associated with running a race  or competing in an event may pose risks. Travelling long distances, sleep disturbances caused by travel or unfamiliar sleeping arrangements, poor or inadequate diet, getting cold and wet or psychological stress of competition have all been linked to an increased risk of developing an infection. These are all things that should be acknowledged , but should not lead to the  avoidance physical activity. If all else fails we could take some inspiration from Pan Shancu, a Chinese amateur marathoner who ran 31 miles  in 4 hours 48 minutes whilst in self-isolation by completing 6,250 laps around his living room!

References

Campbell, J. P. and Turner, J. E. (2018) ‘Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan’, Frontiers in Immunology, 9, pp. 648.

Ji, W., Wang, W., Zhao, X., Zai, J. and Li, X. (2020) ‘Cross-species transmission of the newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV’, Journal of Medical Virology, 92(4), pp. 433-440.

 

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I qualified with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2004. Since graduating I have worked in St. James Hospital Dublin and have worked in all the areas of speciality within the hospital including cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, care of the elderly, neurology, burns and plastic surgery among others . I have also completed a post graduate certificate in acupuncture in UCD 2009. The Physiotherapy Department in SJH has strong links with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students on practice placements and also delivered lectures on the undergraduate academic programme in TCD. I have a keen interest in all sports and currently plays with Cill Dara RFC 1st team squad, and Milltown GAA. I have previously worked as Physiotherapist to Co. Carlow Senior GAA Team, Milltown GAA, Leinster Junior Rugby Team and Cill Dara RFC. I am an experienced runner and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2002. I continue to participate in running events and multisport disciplines such as Gaelforce West, Gaelforce North and the Motivate Challenge. I have a particular interest in strength and conditioning. I utilise this knowledge of resistance training in the treatment of his clients. I am committed to continuous learning and development in order to ensure the optimal level of care is offered to my clients, and with this in mind I am currently undertaking a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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