Sport and exercise science has always been the bedrock of everything we do at Wattbike. With the current COVID-19 pandemic shining a light on the current unhealthy state of the world, we decided it was time to take a deep dive into the scientific archives to explore the sometimes complicated relationship between exercise, the immune system, and medical conditions.
GOOD PHYSICAL HEALTH, THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, & COVID-19
The baseline general health in many Western populations has been in a shocking state for decades. Increased globalisation and improved technology has created a sedentary lifestyle, which paired with poor eating habits and consumerism,has led to more than 60% of adults in the UK and USA to be overweight or obese. Excess body fat disrupts the immune system and induces chronic inflammation, and has been linked to the cytokine storm that is responsible for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome often seen in influenza and other respiratory viruses.
So, it’s becoming quite clear that there seems to be a significant link between obesity and a weakened immune system. However, it is also important to note that metabolic diseases or dysfunctions associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, etc., can also affect people of a normal weight and BMI, so anyone can bemetabolically unhealthy. Individuals who are of normal weight but have poor metabolic health havea three-fold risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular eventscompared to those of normal weight and metabolic health, and alsoa ten-fold risk of dying from COVID-19. So there is no such thing as a healthy weight, only a healthy person.
EXERCISE & THE IMMUNE SYSTEM - THE MAGIC CURE?
According to research collated by the NHS, exercise can reduce the risk of major illnesses by up to 50%, and lower your risk of early death by 30%. Physical activity also boosts your self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.Other researchsuggests that regular exercise can even reduce the risk of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which affects up to 17% of all patients with COVID-19.
In other researchundertaken by leading exercise researcher Dr. Zhen Yan, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, it’s suggested that the antioxidant known as Extracellular Superoxide Dismutase (EcSOD) plays an important part in hunting down harmful free radicals in our bodies, protecting our tissues and helping prevent disease. What’s interesting here is that the production of EcSOD is enhanced even by a single session of cardiovascular exercise, and in contrast low levels of this antioxidant can be seen in patients with acute lung disease, heart disease and kidney failure.Dr Richard Simpson, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pediatrics and Immunobiology at the University of Arizona, agrees with Dr. Zhen Yan, and states that with each bout of exercise, and particularly whole-body cardiorespiratory exercise, millions of immune cells are immediately mobilised. Especially those types of cells that are capable of recognising and killing virus-infected cells.
The link between exercise and an improved immune system is further discussed by Professor Sanjay Sharma, who specializes in inherited cardiac disease, who states that there is lots of evidence showing that moderate exercise performed for 20-30 minutes 3-4 times per week strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of viral infections. He also states that numerous scientific studies have shown that good levels of physical activity prior to developing a potentially serious infection such as the flu, prevents people dying from it. This can actually be seen during the1998 Hong Kong flu, as people who continued to remain active were more likely to survive compared to people who did not exercise.
So how can we quantify, measure, track, and improve physical health, so we can better protect ourselves against disease, and ultimately live longer? It’s a big ask. But Wattbike has the answer: Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF).
MEASURING PHYSICAL HEALTH THROUGH CARDIO-RESPIRATORY FITNESS
Scientific research on the benefits of exercise, and how our bodies react to it, have identifiedCRFas an accurate way to measure someone’s physical health. In simple terms, CRF tells you how effective your body is at transporting oxygen to the places where it’s needed the most. CRF quantifies the functional capacity of an individual and is dependent on the current state of a linked chain of processes in your body; your respiratory, cardiovascular and skeletal muscle systems. CRF is therefore health related - where low CRF is associated with high risks of premature death from all causes, and a high CRF is associated with a reduction in premature death from all causes.
Now, CRF has actually been around for a long time, but it has not really been understood or appreciated properly in the medical and health and fitness community. This slowly started changing in 1996 with a paper published byBlair et.al, where they investigated the influences of cardiorespiratory fitness and other precursors in cardiovascular disease in men and women, and showed that fitter individuals were less at risk of cardiovascular disease and early mortality compared to unfit individuals.
The past two decadeshave seen an exponential growth in the number of studies assessing the association between measures of CRF, mortality, and other health outcomes. In a growing number of studies, CRF has been demonstrated as a more powerful predictor of mortality risk than traditional factors such as hypertension, smoking, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.Mounting evidencehas now firmly established that low levels of CRF are associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and mortality rates attributable to various cancers.
So although CRF is starting to become widely recognised as an important marker of health, it is currently the only major metric not routinely assessed in clinical practice.
WHY SHOULD YOU TEST FITNESS?
So, based on all the reasons listed above, testing is absolutely crucial for a health assessment, but also for the implementation of an exercise or training plan to help address an individual’s health and fitness level. Initial fitness testing provides a starting point and delivers basic information needed to devise an appropriate and successful training plan. Progress testing during a training plan allows for an on-going assessment of fitness, and enables changes to be made to the plan if necessary. Testing at the end of a training plan allows for full analysis of the progress made and also provides a contribution to future planning.
The CRF test also functions like a risk assessment, and can be used as a preventative measure to determine if an individual is at particular risk of developing cardiorespiratory or metabolic disorders based on their fitness level.
We created an easy-to-do, accessible, and accurate test that would give each individual their CRF score and predicted VO2max to show individuals their current health and fitness benchmarks; and assign each individual a personalised, effective training plan and individual training zones that will increase their CRF score at the end of the recommended training block.
The Wattbike Health Assessmentwas launched in 2017 via the Wattbike Hub app. The Health Assessment is a free to access submax ramp test that quantifies each individual’s CRF and provides them with personalised data and training zones to enable them to improve their score; so anyone can improve their health and extend their active life.
The accuracy and reliability of our Health Assessment was picked up by health giantBupa, and in late 2019, our official partnership was announced. Today, anyone can sign up to undertake the Health Assessment at numerous Bupa clinics around the UK to examine and analyse every part of their health, or you could undertakethe Health Assessment at hometo gain insight into your cardiorespiratory fitness.
WHY SHOULD YOU USE A WATTBIKE FOR CARDIORESPIRATORY FITNESS TESTING?
AllWattbike products are independently verified to deliver unrivalled accuracy, so they provide you with great confidence to test, workout, and improve technique precisely. The Wattbike’s unique Pedalling Technique Analysis provides immediate gains in fitness by highlighting pedalling technique issues, and all Wattbike products provide the correct workout settings in relation to individual power and heart rate training zones, which are all established from the CRF test. .
The Wattbike is also unmatched in its ability to measure progress, re-test, and reset exercise and training zones as fitness improves, and each workout can be recorded, analysed and shared. Wattbike is also the very first company to launch a CRF Health Assessment in the UK, with personalised, structured, and scientific training plans to improve CRF over a 12-week period. These training plans offer individuals structure, consistency, and motivation, for optimum fitness improvement.
More than 100,000Health Assessmentshave already been undertaken - so what are you waiting for?
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Ross, R., Blair, S. N., Arena, R., Church, T. S., Després, J. P., Franklin, B. A., ... & Myers, J. (2016). Importance of assessing cardiorespiratory fitness in clinical practice: a case for fitness as a clinical vital sign: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 134(24), e653-e699.
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