The benefits of exercise in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic


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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Lana Gabrielle Marreiros Santos, a third year medical student at the State University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Since the end of December 2019, an outbreak of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19; previously known as 2019-nCoV), has been reported in Wuhan, China, 1 subsequently affecting several countries and in a short time reaching all continents. Thus, the high rate of transmission of this virus forced measures of social isolation to be applied in order to contain the pandemic that was beginning with a certain speed.

In this new scenario, the pace of cities and, consequently, the daily lives of individuals were affected by the slowdown in modern life. Mental health, in the midst of the chaos caused by Covid-19, presents itself as a pillar to face this global crisis, as it constitutes an indispensable part of general health, allowing the individual to make full use of his cognitive, relational and affective abilities, overcoming difficulties in life, production at work and contributing to actions in society 2.

From this perspective, physical activity represents one of the possibilities to be adopted to reduce stress levels, lack of concentration and anxiety disorders that may appear in the face of the current situation of isolation. In addition, regular physical exercise is a non-pharmacological intervention recommended by the American Sleep Association to promote adequate sleep 3. In addition to a healthy diet, physical activity can also help with weight loss and reduce chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension.

It is important to note that in this pandemic period, interpersonal contact should be avoided, so outdoor exercises are not recommended. But this does not prevent that even some exercises are performed indoors, using the weight of the body itself. Therefore, functional training is an alternative to keep body metabolism active, since they work on muscle strength, flexibility, the cardiorespiratory system, motor coordination and balance 4.

The physical exercise practiced regularly can be beneficial for health, however, parameters such as volume and intensity must be observed in your prescription to obtain the best results. In general, moderate intensity exercise promotes protection against infections caused by intracellular microorganisms 5, which is essential in this pandemic period, but the recommendation of a professional is essential for injuries to be avoided.

Thus, the effects of exercise on the brain are significantly positive, representing a powerful therapeutic strategy in mental health. Through direct effects on the central nervous system such as the proliferation of new neurons, exercise has been shown to be a highly effective tool in the treatment of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and neurodegenerative diseases 6. Therefore, keeping the body in motion is a way of strengthening the immune system and invigorate mental health in this period of the Covid-19 pandemic.





  1. Wu, F., Zhao, S., Yu, B., Chen, YM, Wang, W., Song, ZG, … and Yuan, ML (2020). A new coronavirus associated with human respiratory diseases in China. Nature, 579 (7798), 265-269.
  2. de Souza, Mayra Silva, and Makilim Nunes Baptista. “Associations between family support and mental health.” Psychology Argument 26.54 (2017): 207-215.
  3. Ropke, Lucilene Maria, et al. “Effect of physical activity on quality of sleep and quality of life: systematic review.” Archives of Health Investigation 6.12 (2018).
  4. Matias, Givanildo Holanda. Functional training: what it is, benefits and how to do it at home: In addition to helping you lose weight, practice improves flexibility and fitness. My lifes. l.], p. Jan 1, 29 2013. Available at: Accessed on: 19 abr. 2020.
  5. Terra, Rodrigo, et al. “Effect of exercise on the immune system: cellular response, adaptation and signaling.” Brazilian journal of sports medicine 18.3 (2012): 208-214.
  6. Vorkapic-Ferreira, Camila, et al. “Born to run: the importance of exercise for brain health.” Brazilian Journal of Sports Medicine 23.6 (2017): 495-503.

About the author

Lana Gabrielle Marreiros Santos is a third year medical student at the State University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, and a member of the Local Committee UERN IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students Associations). Participates in the academic center and athletic sports of your college. She has worked in extension projects and is interested in the medical field and in publications related to medicine.

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