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Can Squats Combat COVID-19?

It's time to get off our butts and start using them, folks!

A recent article in the AARP Bulletin caught my eye because it discussed how an aging immune system could make people vulnerable to disease. As the COVID-19 pandemic engulfs the world, we are all more acutely aware of how important it is to build the body's defenses against viruses, bacteria, and other invaders.

It turns out that exercising your butt muscles might be one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system. Who knew that squats and lunges might help us kick out COVID-19?

Let's take a look at how this can happen.

Our immune system fights off invaders by flooding our bodies with white blood cells. White blood cells called T cells attack viruses, and B cells make antibodies to fight infection. Most people produce fewer immune cells as they age, which makes them more vulnerable to disease. And people of all ages become more vulnerable to infection when their immune systems malfunction, leading to chronic pain and auto-immune diseases.

We've long known that regular exercise can lower inflammation and boost immune function. But recent research has helped us understand why certain exercises and muscle groups are more critical to the cause.

Myokines play a starring role in this production. Myokines are proteins released by muscle that bolster the immune system. They also rev up the body's metabolism through exercise.

The biggest producers of myokines are skeletal muscles, which attach to bones and coordinate the movements of body parts in relation to each other. Glutes, the large muscles of the butt and thighs, are among the key skeletal muscles that release myokines during exercise.

Research has shown that myokine secretes into the blood system during skeletal muscle contraction and can fight inflammation as well as metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

"Small changes induced by exercise can create a ripple effect of benefits to the entire body," scientists shared in a 2014 article in Integrative Medicine Research.

A 2019 study in Nature Reviews: Immunology found that skeletal muscle is a "major immune regulatory organ" that stimulates the production of myokines.

Dr. Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham in England, explained in a webinar how developing muscle mass can help fight COVID-19.

"You don't need any special equipment," she said. "No matter what your condition, exercise will improve your immunity."

Climb stairs, do sit-to-stand exercise from a chair, squat while lifting hand weights or soup cans if you are stuck at home. Just get moving! Your body will look better, and you'll stand a much better chance of fighting off infection!

Check out the class schedule at Holly's Pilates Village for more ways to get your butt in gear.

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